Maltese trawler held in Benghazi for over a week

Owner seeking urgent action by the foreign ministry

A Maltese-owned trawler is being held by Libyan forces in the port of Benghazi with a captain and six crew on board.

The Maltese flagged Salvatur VI, owned by Salvatur VI Fishing Company was intercepted and forced into the Libyan harbour on September 28. On board were an Italian captain and six Indonesian crew.

The boat was intercepted some 35 miles off Libya in international waters, but the Libyan authorities are claiming it was in territorial waters, the vessel's owner, Albert Satariano, told Times of Malta.

Several Italian boats were in the same area as the Salvatur, yet the Libyan forces ignored them all and headed for the Maltese boat, he complained. 

"The crew are still on board, but they are well. However, the release has been delayed day after day," he said.

He was told by his lawyer in Libya that the Libyan army was waiting to be contacted by the Maltese and Indonesian authorities, to be able to release the crew and vessel.

The Italian captain was released immediately after the Libyan authorities were contacted by the Italian consulate in Benghazi. However, he refused to leave the vessel until the matter was resolved.

"It seems he is now being forced to leave the country," Mr Satariano said.  

He said he has been in contact with the Ministry of Foreign and the Indonesian Embassy in Rome but he was concerned that the Maltese authorities had not taken urgent action, contrary to what the Italian government did.

It appeared, he said, that the Libyan army expected the Maltese government to confirm the identity of the vessel before its release, he said.

Benghazi harbour is run by the East Libya government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, which is not recognised by the Maltese government. 

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