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MARITIME SECURITY,
IMPORTANT TWO-DAY CONFERENCE
WASHINGTON MARRIOTT, WASHINGTON, DC
January 30 & 31, 2002


January 15, 2002

Tonga suspends registry

Following the detention of three of its ships, the Government of Tonga has suspended the operation of the Tonga International Registry of Ships.

A statement by Acting Deputy Prime Minister William Clive Edwards noted that three foreign vessels registered under the Tonga International Registry of Ships, namely the Rasha J, the Marwa and the Karine A, were detained and inspected by the U.S. Navy, the Maltese Government and the Israeli Government respectively, as part of the United Nations mission against international terrorism.

The first two vessels were cleared and released after inspection, but "to the great shock of the Government of Tonga," theKarine A was found to carry armaments

"The Government of Tonga abhors terrorism and is fully committed to the campaign by the United Nations and the United States of America, to conquer international terrorism and to make its perpetrators accountable to the international community," says the statement.

"Accordingly,although it is the ship owners, and not the flag countries, who are responsible for their cargoes," continues the statement,Tonga has issued emergency directions under which the operation of the Tonga International Registry of Ships(TIRS) is suspended and no new ships shall be registered.

Pelopidas Papadopoulos, Tonga's Deputy Registrar of Ships, whose office, located in Piraeus, Greece, operates the TIRS, is to "give an immediate explanation to Government on the Karine A and other incidents involving Tongan flagged vessels."

Tonga says its Cabinet is to immediately review the operation of the TIRS, including an investigation on the status of the vessels currently registered under the TIRS.