Operation Yellowfin: Seychelles and Mauritius intercept suspicious vessel at Mascarene Plateau
The interception happened during the first bilateral operation of the centre within the Joint Management Area. (Seychelles News Agency)
An investigation has been initiated into a vessel of interest after it was intercepted in the Joint Management Area of the Mascarene Plateau Region, co-managed by Seychelles and Mauritius.
According to director of the Regional Coordination Operations Centre (RCOC), Sam Gonthier, the interception happened during the first bilateral operation of the centre within the area undertaken by the military of the two countries.
Dubbed Operation Yellowfin, the mission saw the deployment of assets from Seychelles and the Mauritian Coastguard and Air Force. The operation, which took place from November 14 to November 21, resulted in a Taiwanese fishing vessel being directed to Mauritius for further investigation by the relevant authorities there.
The operation was launched and coordinated by RCOC, a centre based in Seychelles. It benefits from real-time intelligence and information from the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar allowing surface and air assets to conduct their missions with decisiveness and with precision, according to centre.
In a press conference on Friday, Gonthier, said, "The Mauritian authorities are currently conducting investigations to determine the offence committed by the vessel with the view of ensuring that the necessary legal finish is attained."
The aim of Operation Yellowfin was to establish a presence in the Joint Management Area as well as identify activities being carried out by vessels in the area. It promotes regional maritime security and interoperability between signatory parties of the 2018 regional agreements facilitated by the Indian Ocean Commission under the EU-funded Maritime Security (MASE) Programme.
The officer in charge of the MASE Programme, Rahj Mohabeer, outlined that "during surveillance that we have been carrying out in the area for the past one and a half years we have found that there are dozens, if not hundreds of vessels that come to the area."
He said that they do not understand what the vessels are doing there.
"For example, we have seen tankers leaving the Singapore region and according to their route are supposed to go to the US but we see them going to that particular region and being there for several weeks. We have found that there are at least 16 different types of infractions against IMO rules among those vessels that we have observed in the area. This first operation is key as this will send out the message that we are looking," said Mohabeer.
Talking about the interception, the director of the National Information Sharing and Coordination Centre (NISSC), Gerard Wong Pool, explained that during air patrols by the Seychelles Air Force and Mauritius Air Force, vessels of interest were detected and the intercepted Taiwanese fishing vessel was one of them.
"The Seychelles Coast Guard vessel, PS Etoile, made the first interception where the vessel of interest was boarded during which its documents were checked. Upon inspection, it was established that the vessel was without a flag. All information collected was sent to the NISCC, which shared this with RCOC. RCOC shared with all regional centres taking part in the operation," he added.
"Mauritius carried out certain investigations on their side. This is when we saw discrepancies in the movement of the vessel and we asked that CGS Barracuda also carry out an interception," said Wong Pool.
The vessel was later forcefully directed to the Mauritian port with 18 crew members on board of different nationalities.