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Georgian police muddying the waters2011-08-04 20:11
Georgian coastal guards have cut loose of late. It's either Sakartvelo seaside law enforcers need to hit the target, or Vano Merabishvili's administrations are running out of money, but the fact remains that the security officials have churned out the fines imposed on foreign vessels. For instance, at the end of July, a ship flying the flag of the Marshall Islands was detained in Batumi and the same thing happened to a Turkish tanker almost a week later.
The long-practiced scheme used by Georgian coastal guards has been brought to perfection - any tanker flying a foreign flag and berthed in Batumi or Poti gets arrested. The captain of the ship is put behind the bars. The most curious thing is the pretext: environmental damage, i.e. contamination of the Georgian section of the Black Sea water zone. To buy off the security officials who pretend to be Greenpeace members, one has to pay 65 thousand laris for the captain. The direct damage caused by the ship is covered by a fine of just 60-100 laris.
To call it a paradox would be to say nothing. Why is the official pretext for detaining a whole ship, which has got its travelling schedule, contracts and crew, evaluated at such a trifling sum, while to release the captain, one has to raise several dozens of thousands of dollars? That is a very unreasonable decision if the Georgian authorities want to play safe that way. The point is that it is much easier for the owning company to find a large sum of money than it is for the captain's relatives. It would be more logic to impose large fines on tankers. Perhaps, the border police think that the captain will be released by ship owners but that is the legal aspect of the issue that we should better not go into.
Ships are more and more often arrested in Georgia. Last year, there were several loud cases, such as the story of Ioli Panama vessel, Pranik Moldavian dry-cargo carrier, as well as Russian tankers named Saratov City and Kazan City. The zealous coastal guards noticed the ships discharging hydraulic oil, crude oil and other substances into the sea. By the way, talking about the scandal with Kazan City that allegedly had its diesel oil hoses broken, editor-in-chief of Sea Bulletin Mikhail Voitenko remarked then: "I have worked on tankers myself and, as far as I know, they use shore hoses instead of shipping hoses in such cases".