Arctic drama heats up

October 18th, 2005  

Topic: Arctic drama heats up

Source Aftenposten English Web Desk

The ongoing drama is being heated according to the latest news.

The captain of a Russian trawler claimed Tuesday that the Norwegian Coast Guard had launched firebombs at his vessel. Two Norwegian inspectors are on board the trawler, which the Coast Guard is trying to arrest because of alleged fishing and environmental violations.

The drama that began in the Barents Sea over the weekend heated up on Tuesday. Four Norwegian coast guard vessels were tracking the trawler Elektron, in an ongoing effort to get it to stop or set course for Tromsų in northern Norway.

The Norwegians have accused the Elektron's crew of violating fishing and pollution regulations in the area. Two Norwegian inspectors were still on board the trawler when it started defying a Norwegian arrest order on Sunday and sailed towards Russia instead of Norway.

The Norwegians were considering firing at the vessel on Monday, but held back. Russian media later reported that the captain was claiming his vessel was under fire.

The reports, however, were denied by Russian border patrol officials. Vladimir Berjochin of the border patrol station in Murmansk said the Norwegians merely fired signal flares, as a way of trying to enforce their message that the trawler should stop. He even noted that the Norwegians had shown restraint in trying to arrest the trawler.

Russian authorities nonetheless sent out a patrol boat to meet the Elektron and escort it into Murmansk. The trawler was located about 200 nautical miles from land but reportedly entered Russian waters mid-morning.
October 19th, 2005  
So where are the two Norwegians now? Murmansk? Are Russian-Norwegian relations such that this will be resolved according to the law or will the Russians protect the trawler and crew?
October 19th, 2005  
The Norwegian Costguard is in international waters, and the Russian trawler is currently being escorted by a Russian Navy vessel to port.

Recent news indicates this was a test from a mid-level department in the Russian gouvernment to test the respons and will to act of the new Norwegian gouvernment.
October 19th, 2005  
An interesting story. I found this article today.

Russian Trawler Home After 4-Day Chase by Norwegian Coast Guard
Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- A Russian trawler that spent four days fleeing Norwegian coast guards after being stopped on suspicion of illegal fishing is back in home waters and under the control of a Russian frigate.

Two Norwegian officials held on the trawler, the Elektron, since it was stopped Oct. 15 will be transferred to a Norwegian ship as soon as the weather permits, said Jon Espen Lien, a Bodoe, Norway-based armed forces spokesman at the Regional Headquarter North Norway, in a telephone interview today.

``The Elektron is now under the control of the Russian North Fleet,'' Lien said. The trawler is heading for the Russian port of Murmansk, accompanied by the Admiral Levtsjenko, and a Norwegian coast guard vessel is shadowing them just outside the maritime border, Lien said.

Norwegian energy companies including Norsk Hydro ASA and Statoil ASA are seeking stakes in Russian Arctic oil and gas fields. About a quarter of the world's undiscovered petroleum reserves are thought to be in Arctic waters, including the Barents Sea to the north of Russia and Norway.

The Elektron changed course toward Russia after being impounded and ordered to sail for Tromsoe, Norway. The trawler took with it two Norwegian inspectors from a coast guard vessel.

Russia and Norway disagree on the status of the waters around the Arctic island of Spitzbergen, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in remarks on Russia's state-run Perviy Kanal television channel yesterday.

``We agree in both Russia and Norway that this is a ship guilty of crimes against the environment,'' Lien said. ``This is not a question about jurisdiction.''

The ship was fishing illegally by using nets that don't discriminate between sizes of fish, Lien alleged in an interview yesterday. Norwegian prosecutors will pursue the case, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said in a statement today.

Norway's Norsk Hydro and Statoil are among five companies bidding for a role in a $10 billion offshore Arctic field that is being developed by OAO Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled natural-gas company.