Seized Pirate Ship Still Racking Up Fees in Dutch Harbor
Bangun Perkasa still in legal limbo
ALASKA - The pirate fishing vessel Bangun Perkasa, seized by the Coast Guard on September 19 of last year near Japan in violation of the High Seas Driftnet Moratorium, still sits at a Dutch Harbor port, now in the legal custody of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). When apprehended, the ship contained 30 tons of squid and 30 sharks.
After its seizure, the U.S. Coast Guard spent around $200,000 to hire a company to rid the ship of approximately 20 rats before it could be brought into Dutch Harbor’s waters and docked. NOAA then took control of the ship on October 15, 2011, and has since been working through the legal system to figure out how to dispose of the ship, all the while continuously racking up moorage and other costs.
As of the end of March, NOAA had spent approximately $219,000 for the Bangun Perkasa’s moorage, utilities, security and maintenance – in mid-May, those were the most recent numbers the agency would provide. If those costs are pro-rated monthly, the agency would have spent an additional $73,000 since then. As of May 17, NOAA has been in possession of the Bangun Perkasa for 216 days. In total, KTVA estimates the federal agencies have spent approximately $492,000 on the ship thus far.
Meanwhile, Alaska Senator Mark Begich has advocated for the pirate ship to be sunk in a Coast Guard exercise, and introduced legislation along with Congressman Don Young to allow for seized vessels to be used by the Coast Guard for target practice. This doesn’t currently seem to be an option for NOAA, however.
“We are working through the processes associated with disposing of the vessel,” said Sherrie Tinsley-Myers, NOAA’s Alaska Division of Law Enforcement Special Agent in Charge. “There are a number of legal and procedural requirements that take time, and we are working through these as quickly as possible.”
In a press release, NOAA emphasized the estimated annual global monetary losses due to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is between $10 billion and $23.5 billion.
“Seizing a vessel conducting IUU fishing sends a clear message to those who engage in IUU fishing that they could be permanently deprived of their vessel or, at a minimum, could incur substantial costs to get it back. This case demonstrates NOAA's commitment to detecting, investigating and prosecuting violations of the High Seas Driftnet moratorium and we hope will serve as a deterrent to others considering or already engaging in IUU fishing,” the release stated.
The costs associated with the seizure of the Bangun Perkasa come from NOAA’s Asset Forfeiture Fund, authorized by the Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization Act, and the agency says using that fund does not impact its operating budget.