The government does not own MV Gauja, the cargo ship that was intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea on suspicion that it was carrying illegal arms, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary for International Relations and Cooperation (IR&C), Ambassador Chalwe Lombe has said.
And Ambassador Lombe says Government does not own MV Antalya general cargo ship and has never registered the vessel. Ambassador Lombe said Government has never at any time issued any registration of the general cargo vessel, MV Gauja.
“The Government is yet to set up an International Ship Registry. Further, the Government is not undertaking any operation in the Mediterranean Sea,” Ambassador Lombe said.
He said as a consequence, Government had communicated to the International Maritime Organisation to inform the body responsible for all maritime matters, of this position.
The Permanent Secretary was responding to a press query on allegations suggesting that a vessel registered in Zambia and bearing the Zambian Flag was intercepted by the European Union Naval Force on suspicion of carrying illegal arms.
Ambassador Lombe also said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in receipt of communication from the European Union Naval Force dated May 10, 2021 regarding the vessel MV Gauja that was intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea.
He said the matter was being addressed through the relevant diplomatic channels.
“The Government of the Republic of Zambia remains unequivocally committed to safeguarding the interests of the country and its people, and reiterates its unwavering commitment to the principles that underpin its Foreign Policy in furtherance of cordial relations with other countries,” Ambassador Lombe said.
Meanwhile, Government says it is in receipt of communication from the European Union Naval Force dated June 21, 2021 regarding the vessel MV Antalya that was intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea.
Ambassador Lombe clarified that Government does not own MV Antalya general cargo ship and has not issued any such registration.
“The Government of the Republic of Zambia has not yet set up an International Open Ship Registry and does not issue registration for international vessels,” he said.
Ambassador Lombe reiterated that Government is not undertaking any operation in the Mediterranean Sea.
“In view of these developments where organisations are illegally using the Zambian Flag and the Zambian Ship Registry, the Government of the Republic of Zambia has continued to engage the International Maritime Organisation, the body responsible for all maritime matters, and the European Union Naval Force to ensure that the matter is resolved urgently and conclusively,” Ambassador Lombe said.
He said it was unfortunate that a private tabloid published two articles regarding this matter without seeking an official Government position.