Senegal has seized three containers of ammunition from a Guyana-flagged cargo ship in the port of the capital Dakar, in a rare arms haul worth an estimated US$5 million.
In a statement seen by AFP on Tuesday, Senegal’s customs agency said it had searched a ship named the Eolika/Eureka when it stopped to refuel, after it had made “inconsistent declarations”.
Customs agents in the West African country found three containers of ammunition aboard the Eolika, worth the equivalent of an estimated $5.2 million, the statement said.
The customs agency did not mention when the operation occurred.
The crew members — whom local media reported were Ukrainian — are currently being questioned. AFP was unable to independently confirm the nationality of the crew, however, a Senegal customs agency spokesman would not confirm the information.
Eolika’s final destination is also unknown. However, specialised website Vesselfinder showed that the vessel had stopped in northern Italy and Spain’s Canary Islands en route to Dakar.
Drugs are periodically found on vessels anchoring in the port of Dakar, an important trading hub on the Atlantic Ocean. However, arms hauls are rare.
In June 2021, Senegal’s navy seized eight tonnes of cannabis from a vessel off the coast of the country.
On Thursday evening, the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) said that it notes with concern the recent arrest/detention by the Senegalese customs of the motor vessel Eolika purportedly bearing Guyana registration. The vessel’s registration expired on December 10, 2021.
“MARAD understands that a search of the said vessel unearthed illegal arms and ammunition on board. The vessel in question is not contained in the local ships’ registry and it is believed that registration documents were issued by International Maritime Safety Agency of Guyana (IMSAG), an entity with which the administration had severed all ties since 13th August, 2021,” MARAD said.
It added that it subsequently notified all regional, and international bodies and organisations of the effective termination of all arrangements with IMSAG, and advised of the veracity of registration certificates issued to vessels by IMSAG. As a result, several vessels have been detained in various ports for false registration documents.
“MARAD assures that it will continue to actively monitor this incident, and will spare no effort in protecting the image of the Guyana flag.”