Bid to convert French humanitarian fishing boat into SL Navy vessel exposed

[TamilNet, Friday, 25 March 2005, 04:19 GMT]
A concerted move bid by the Sri Lankan Navy to convert a French deep sea fishing trawler, SIMON KEGHIAN, which was gifted on humanitarian ground by a French Subsidiary company to help tsunami-devastated Sri Lankan fishermen in the South, has been widely exposed in French media. A leading French news site, Lorient Maville, reported on Thursday that the Sri Lankan Admiral-Commodore who inspected the ship was "very much impressed by the boat", which was later joined in the Sri Lanka Navy's boat squadron fleet for deep sea naval training and related exercises.

Simon KeghianThe website quoted the Admiral-Commodore as saying that the boat would be used "for control of fishing and with safety at sea".

Making the shocking revelation, the site in its Wednesday edition said that the 55m length deep sea industrial fishing trawler, SIMON KEGHIAN, at last was assigned Sri Lankan Navy's registration number P622, next to the COURAGEOUS with the number P621. The COURAGEOUS was obtained from US Coastal Guard by the Sri Lankan navy to increase its attack and deep sea surveillance capabilities.

SIMON KEGHIAN, fully capable of deep water sailing, embarked its 12 000 km long humanitarian journey, on February 18, via Swiss Canal with a crew of nine voluntary sailors and a few activists on board with around 100 ton humanitarian relief items, according to a source in Breton, France.

Scapêche, a French Subsidiary company of the Intermarché group, had gifted the decommissioned trawler boat to a Lorient based association, "Friends of Ceylon".

Lorient is a town in north-west France, in the Morbihan Department of Brittany.

Simon KeghianThe gifted trawler was meant to be used as a boat of support for the local fishermen in the tsunami devastated Sri Lanka. The association had bought it with a symbolic 1 euro price from the Donor Company.

The association, "Friends of Ceylon", established with the initiative of Sinhala immigrants and with the solidarity of help from the people in Lorient, has been engaged in collecting and channelling aid to Sri Lanka's Southern Matara where a village construction project named "City of Lorient" has been initiated for the tsunami victims.

Immediately after the tsunami strike Sri Lanka, the people from Lorient collected five tons of material to help the victims through the association. A cargo aircraft took off from Paris with five tons of relief material gathered by the inhabitants of the town of Lorient on December 31 barely four days after tsunami hit the island.

The residents in Lorient also collected a cash donation of 60 million rupees (150 000 Euros) for the construction of houses in "City of Lorient" in Matara town. The donation was recently handed over to Deputy Minister of Housing and Construction Industry, Mr. Chandrasiri Gajadeera by the association.

Simon Keghian
The trawler being painted before embarking to Sri Lanka on its humanitarian mission
The Lorient Maville's correspondent in Sri Lanka quotes Shanthy Devasurendra, president of the association of the "Friends of Ceylon" as saying: "It should be known that since the tsunami, Navy took the control of the ports of Sri Lanka to avoid illicit traffics related to the surge of international gifts. Moreover, to allow the arrival of the boat here, it was necessary to pass by the army.

"As an association we could not have assumed the customs duties, which are very heavy, for discharging the cargo. Besides, the Navy ensures the safety of the ship, of its cargo, as long as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka will not have officially taken delivery of the ship," she has been quoted as saying.

As the matter got exposed in French media, Sri Lankas Fisheries Minister Chandrasena Wijesinghe played down the issue on Wednesday by stating that the boat would be employed to "train young sailors with new technologies of navigation to ensure the monitoring of fishing and to supply ice to the local fishermen" quoted Lorient Maville.

There is no official reaction from the Sri Lanka Navy in this regard so far.

SIMON KEGHIAN with the internal capacity of 592 tons was built in 1972. It suffered a serious damage, a breakdown which involved fire, necessitating towage on 21st of August 2001, 6 miles south of Scotland's North Rona island, according to International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Related Articles:
03.02.05   "Disaster Relief" used to bolster Colombo's air-transport ca..
04.12.04   Massive rise in Sri Lankan firepower amid peace
20.06.04   SLN acquires decommissioned US Coast Guard vessel

External Links:
Pontivy Maville: Le bateau humanitaire devenu militaire
Lorient Maville: Keghian : les explications des Srilankais


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