A Cambodian-flagged cargo ship was escorted into international waters by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) on Sunday after dropping anchor off the coast of Crimea without permission, the Moscow-based TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.
The Saint George, a Phnom Penh registered “dry cargo ship,” was traveling from RostovonDon in southwestern Russia toward Varna in Bulgaria when it ran afoul of Russian authorities, who now control the Crimean peninsula following the 2014 invasion of the southern Ukrainian semiautonomous region.
“The vessel violated the regime of the state border of the Russian Federation, that is, deviated from the recommended course and dropped anchor…in the village of Chrenomorskoye without permission of the port services,” the FSB is quoted as saying on its English-language site.
The report added that the ship’s 45yearold Ukrainian captain had been charged with “violation of the Russian Federation’s state border regime,” and that the vessel’s owner faces a fine of up to $681.
Cambodia regularly issues flags of convenience, which allows foreign shipping companies to register their vessels to Cambodian ports and avoid taxes and regulations in their home countries.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation lists Cambodia among 35 countries that issue flags of convenience.
The government’s failure to properly regulate ships flying the Cambodian flag led the European Commission in 2014 to ban the “importation into the EU of any fisheries products caught by vessels” from Cambodia.
In April of that year, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan threatened legal action against journalists who reported that the rights to register foreign ships under the Cambodian flag had been sold to a South Korean firm. On Wednesday, Mr. Siphan said oversight of ship registration had been transferred from the Council of Ministers to the Ministry of Transport. Officials at the ministry could not be reached.
In 2003, a South Korean firm, the International Ship Registry of Cambodia, paid $6 million for the rights to register ships under the Cambodian flag for the next 10 years. Contacted on Wednesday, the registry refused to answer questions about whether this arrangement had been renewed.
The vessel tracking website FleetMon lists 1,126 ships as flying the Cambodian flag.