The Story of the Antillas Reefer

Posted on: March 15th, 2013 by Hannah Darrin

From Poacher to Gamekeeper


Picture 1: Antillas Reefer circa 2008


This fisheries tale, all started around the 23rd of June 2008 when the Mozambican authorities received information from the fishing fleet that an unknown vessel called “Antillas Reefer” was fishing off the coast of the central province of Zambezia, in Mozambican waters. Back ground checks were run on the history of the vessel and it was found that The Company that owned her was, Ompala Fishing Pty Ltd, a joint venture between Mabenal SA, (a Uruguayan company which is a 100% subsidiary of Vidal Armadores SAtheir headquarters are in Spain)  and Gongala Fishing Pty Ltd, (a Namibian company). Ompala Fishing Pty Ltd, had, on the 18th of April, through their local agent, Sabpal Pescas SA, applied to the Minister of Fisheries for a Tuna fishing license.

On the 24th of June, Ministry of Fisheries’ officials instructed the local representative company, Sabpal Pescas SA, to direct the Antillas Reefer to Maputo port for a pre –fishing licence briefing and inspection. This is a normal procedure before issuing a fishing licence. However it was used to bring the Antillas Reefer closer to Maputo and just off Inhacha Island the Ministry’s inspection vessel Kuswag 1 intercepted her at sea and accompanied her to Maputo.

Antillas Reefer halted and refused to proceed at the outward sea markers of the port, initially reporting engine problems. The vessel delayed entry into port for a further three days entering on the 5th July 2008. Later it was confirmed that during the trip to Maputo or during the delay at the outer markers, information was purged from the ships computers and data logs

The inspection revealed that Antillas Reefer had been fishing in Mozambique waters since the 14th May 2008 and the holds contained 43 tonnes of shark, 4tonnes of shark fins, 1.8 tonnes of shark tails, 11.3 tons of shark liver and 20 tonnes of shark oils. This was supported by 65 tonnes of bait and illegal fishing gear. The gear included long lines of up to 2 kilometres plus weights and anchors indicating the targeting of kitefin shark (Dalatias licha) an illegal activity in Mozambique.

“The vessel was sailing with a Namibian flag, but the Namibian authorities distanced themselves from the case.”


Picture 2: Kitefin shark (Dalatias licha)

Picture 2: Kitefin shark (Dalatias licha)

The immediate action of the Maputo port authorities was to arrest the vessel and the illegally caught products and to confiscate the fishing gear and all documents. The Master Francisco Olveira Fernandes, who coincidentally was the First Officer on the famous VIARSA 1 (the longest IUU fishing vessel chase to date from Australian waters, through South African waters till almost entering Uruguayan waters which are registered and safe haven) and the chief engineer, were kept under custody in Maputo.

Through and inter agency meeting it was decided that the navy would take custody of the vessel. Immigration allowed 37 mixed nationality crew to leave the country, while the master and the chief engineer remained in custody.

Following fisheries law and due process for this case, on the 18th of August 2008 it was declared that the administrative penalty to be: The loss of the vessel; equipment and fishing gear and fish products and a cash fine of US$ 4,507,000 for infractions against Mozambican fisheries legislation. The penalty was appealed by MABENAL, S.A. However the final ruling by the court of appeal in June 2010, (22 months later) upheld the Minister’s confiscation of the vessel, equipment and fish products.

It would take another 13 months and US$1.6 million for the transformation, of the poacher to gamekeeper, to be completed, and on the 5th of July 2011 a fully-fledged fisheries Patrol vessel with a shiny red coat of paint and bearing the large white lettering of “Fiscalizacao Da Pesca” The Antillas Reefer sailed into Maputo accompanied by the Ministry’s Norwegian financed surveillance vessel Kuswag I.

Picture 3: Antillas Reefer and Kuswag I 5th July 2011

Picture 3: Antillas Reefer and Kuswag I 5th July 2011

The fleet of fisheries protection vessels will soon be added to, with the refit of the Dragonera (P32), an ex-Spanish navy Conejera class patrol vessel, underway in the Spanish shipbuilder’s yards of Navantia. The vessel will increase the capabilities of Mozambique patrolling its EEZ. With a range of 1200nm and a top speed of 25knots the 32.15 meter, 85 ton vessel is powered by 2 Bazan-MAN V8V16/18 TLS diesels delivering through 2 propellers 2800bhp. The compliment of 12 crew is supported by a 20mm 70 cal Oerlikon Mk10 AA cannon and two 12.7mm machine guns.


Picture 4: Spanish-built Conejera-class coastal patrol craft ~ (Conejera P31)

Picture 4: Spanish-built Conejera-class coastal patrol craft ~ (Conejera P31)