Saturday, July 07, 2012

Membe: We are probing tanker reflagging reports

Bernard Membe; Tanzania´s Foreign Affairs Minister.

The  Union government, in collaboration with the Zanzibar government, will conduct investigations to establish the truth behind reports that the Isles authorities have reflagged Iranian oil tankers in order to beat European Union-imposed sanctions on Iranian oil.

The ten oil tankers believed to be operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), which is owned by Iranian Pension Fund, are said to have been re-registered in Zanzibar and were now flying the Tanzanian flag.

Addressing journalists in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe said both governments have decided to investigate the matter so as to establish the truth.

“We have instructed the responsible authorities to investigate the matter thoroughly before we take any stand on it. We don’t want to get involved in matters that are not verified,” said the minister.

Membe said since the matter is very crucial, the government will seek assistance from the US and European Union (EU) to ensure the probe is thorough.

According to the minister, the government has already summoned EU and US ambassadors to ask their countries to help in conducting investigations into the matter, adding that they have accepted the request.

Membe underlined that Zanzibar Marine Transport Authority has so far registered about 392 tankers, but 10 of them are reported to be from Iran.

Elaborating, he said a ZMA agent has denied to have registered the oil tankers. He said the ministry also summoned the Iranian ambassador to Tanzania over the matter but he also did not know anything about the tankers.

Responding to question from journalists, Membe said that once the facts of the matter are verified, measures will be taken to deregister the tankers.

He said apart from deregistering them other stringent measures will be taken against those involved. He refused to mention them, saying they will be known in due course.

“We don’t have a deadline for the investigations…what we want is for the world to know the truth concerning the allegations,” he noted.

Membe said it was to probe the matter in order to protect the country’s image and its stand with the United Nation’s Security Council.

He called upon the media to conduct investigations and get accurate information before publishing news articles that are likely to ruin Tanzania’s image internationally.

Last Friday Zanzibar Infrastructure and Communications Minister Hamad Masoud Hamad refuted reports that the Isles government had registered Iranian oil tankers.

The minister admitted however that the said Iranian oil tankers were previously registered in Cyprus and Malta islands.

The minister stated that according to the Zanzibar Marine Transport Authority Act number 3 of 2009, the Isles government has full autonomy to register international ships.

According to the minister, Zanzibar entered into an agreement with a Dubai-based company, Philtex Ltd, to act as its agent in the registration of all international ships, known in the shipping industry as ‘open registry’.

The minister added that open registry had been in effect in the Isles since 2009, whereby a number of international cargo ships, oil tankers and passenger vessels were registered in Zanzibar.


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