Norwegian ship owner blames UN over weapons in vessel detained at Kenya port

The owner of the Norwegian ship detained at Mombasa port since last Thursday now says the United Nations should be held responsible for the weapons found on it.

Hoegh Autoliners said in a statement on its website last evening that "these weapons belong to the UN vehicles in which they were found" and were to be used for the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but claims the UN arms were "not declared in the cargo manifest" prepared when the vehicles were loaded onto Hoegh Transporters in Mumbai, India.

At the same time, Mombasa police last evening said 20 crew members on the ship have now been formally arrested and will be charged with arms trafficking. They will probably be arraigned court this morning.

Mombasa County Police Commander Francis Wanjohi told The Standard last evening that 20 crew members of the vessel seized in Mombasa will be charged for illegal arms trafficking.

"They are likely to be taken to court tomorrow (this morning) to be charged with possessing these weapons," according to Wanjohi.

Besides rifles, there were reports that Russian-made Rocket Propelled Grenades RPGs and US-made M60 general purpose machine guns have been found on the ship. It was not clear if the search for illegal items on the vessel has been suspended. And we were also not able to reach the UN for its response.

On Monday, the head of security at the Kenya Ports Authority KPA Mohamed Morowa also said the exporter did not declare weapons in the manifest before the vessel sailed into Mombasa port.

On Tuesday, Hoegh Autoliners said the crew on board is all Chinese, contradicting previous claims by Kenya police that the sailors were Filipino and Indian with a Norwegian captain.

Last evening, the shipping company provided additional information confirming the discovery of guns on the vessel. The statement showed that the weapons were found inside the vehicles but did not state what type of vehicles. The Standard has established that besides Armoured Personnel Carriers APCs, there were also Tata trucks on the ship.

The shipping company admitted it had been contracted by the UN to transport vehicles from Mumbai for the UN's peacekeeping mission in DRC.

"It is our understanding that these weapons belong to the UN vehicles in which they were found, and were for use by the UN during their peacekeeping mission. The weapons were not declared to us at the time the cargo was loaded, and the fact that weapons were in the vehicles is in violation of our terms of transportation, which clearly states that no arms nor ammunition are accepted for shipment," the statement said.

Thirty four NATO and US rifles including 9 M-16s are among the weapons and weapon systems found aboard the Norwegian flagged Hoegh Transporter.

Port authorities in Mombasa now say the United Nations did not declare weapons or weapon systems recovered from the Norwegian carrier detained in the Kenyan port before sailing from Mumbai to the Kenya.

Additional weapons have been unearthed from the Norwegian ship detained under heavy guard at Mombasa port since Thursday, according to reliable reports from the port's berth 13.

Reports show some of the weapons were fully assembled but majority were hidden as Critically Knocked Down Kits inside the APCs and trucks.

US and Kenyan military intelligence are said to be concerned about the origin of the recoilless and US/Nato rifles and ammunition following reports that Hoegh Transporter sailed from Norway before docking in Mumbai.