Chinese ship caught with illegally mined sand operating without Customs permit

Foreign ship discovered carrying illegally mined sand off the coast of L. Hithadhoo on May 24, 2019. (Photo/Maldives Police Service)

The foreign ship caught carrying illegally mined sand off the coast of L. Hithadhoo last Friday is operating in Maldives without necessary permits from Maldives Customs Service, reports the agency.

Customs issued a press statement this Saturday morning announcing that it was investigating the case in collaboration with Maldives Police Service and the Coastguard.

Customs, in its statement, confirmed the ship entered into Maldives under the name of CCCC Second Harbor Engineering – the Chinese company which was contracted to build the Sinamale’ Bridge; but said the ship was operating within Maldives without the necessary permit from the agency.

The agency noted that the laws and regulations of Maldives Customs Service prohibits unpermitted anchorage, travel, and entrance and exit of foreign ships within Maldives.

Customs said the ship did not possess the permits.

“And, such large ships, brought into Maldives for major economic projects, cannot be utilized for another project without permission from the Customs,” said the agency in its statement.

It noted that such cases are investigated through local agents registered with the agency for the ships in question.

The illegally mined sand was discovered onboard the ship in a joint operation run by Maldives Police Service and the Coastguard.

Maldives Police Service reported the team, working based on an intelligence report, stopped and boarded at approximately 5:10 pm last Friday.

The ship had been travelling towards a resort under development in Huvadhoo Atoll, but had waited in L. Atoll en route to its destination due to bad weather.

The ship had neither the registration number nor a flag displayed, and that officers found “a large quantity of sand” onboard.

The crew, when questioned by the officers, claimed the sand was used to balance the ship which had some heavy vehicles on board.

Maldives Police Service noted officers found no document awarding permission for sand mining on board the ship.

Minister of Environment, Dr. Hussain Rasheed Hassan took to Twitter to announce his office had asked Maldives Police Service to launch an investigation to ensure the ship had the necessary permit to mine the sand.

It has been alleged that the sand mined from L. Atoll was being taken to Dubai, UAE.

Ministry of Environment reports that no such permit was issued by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and that the allegation was under investigation by the agency.

Ministry of Environment has warned legal action if the allegation is found to be true.