After almost a week’s search, the Norwegian vessel MV Hoegh, carrying Indian Army trucks for US’ peacekeeping mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been released by the Kenya coastal police from the Mombasa port where it had been detained.
The recovery was made from a Norwegian-flagged vessel, the Hoegh Transporter. File Pic for representation
The vessel, that had left Mumbai port on September 11, was intercepted on September 17 following a tip-off from the FBI. During a search, the Kenyan police had recovered white coloured powder, suspected to be cocaine, in the truck tyres. There were also 30 odd weapons that had not been declared in the vessel’s manifest.
The spokesperson of the United Nations' Information Centre in Nairobi confirmed that the vessel has been released. He added that the suspicious powder that was recovered on board was not a drug. It is suspected that the powder was an anti-humidity powder that’s put around tyres for long shipments.
On arrival at Mombasa on September 17, MV Hoegh was boarded by Kenyan authorities who had been told that there were illegal weapons and drugs aboard. After a short search, a consignment of handguns, shipped by the United Nations from Mumbai to Mombasa, in transit for the United Nations peacekeeping mission at Congo, was found.
Though the shipment was aboard the Hoegh Transporter, the official manifest had no mention of either the powder or the weapons. The vehicles had originally been loaded by Indian army personnel in Mumbai.
Army officials here confirmed that the consignment of vehicles was dispatched with a detailed list of the consignment. The Army, however, refused to be accountable for the recovery of additional weapons and equipment.
It said that the Indian Army (IA) had handed over a consignment of 205 vehicles to the UN contracted merchant vessel, with a detailed list of weapons and equipment. “Any further addition of weapons or any other material placed within the IA vehicles is not the responsibility of the IA,” it had said in a statement. Confirming the release of MV Hoegh, in its press statement, shipping company, Hoegh Autoliners stated that Hoegh Transporter has continued her ocean voyage to South Africa, West Africa and Mexico, having suffered a delay of more than a week.
While no crew member was arrested and no drugs were found on board, a consignment of undeclared United Nations weapons was found. The firm further stated, “It is Hoegh Autoliner’s policy not to load weapons on vessels engaged in civilian traffic. Had we been aware of the presence of guns inside this consignment of vehicles shipped by United Nations, the cargo would have been neither booked, nor loaded. The fact that the vehicles contained guns, which were loaded without our knowledge, caused a breach of Kenyan laws and our own strict policies. It is regrettable that a grave mistake on the part of the shipper has caused delays for other customers, the crew and ship.”