Cocaine Ship Sailed From Brazil

Information available to the Daily Graphic on the movement of St Efrem, the vessel impounded at the Tema Port for carrying five sacks of suspected cocaine, indicates that the vessel sailed from Santos, Brazil on August 13, 2009 after it arrived there on August 8, 2009.

Until the arrest of the vessel last Tuesday, it was the fourth time St Efrem was coming to Ghana, particularly the Tema Port.
It first came to Tema on March 23, 2008 but left before May 1, 2008.

Its second coming was on September 14, 2008 and left on September 24, 2008 and made a third appearance on November 10, 2008 and left on November 24, 2008 enroute to Lome, Togo.

Prior to its arrival on September 1, 2009 at the Tema port, St Efrem had berthed in Lome on July 3, 2009 and reported to have left Lome before August 8, 2009 for Santos, Brazil.

While in Santos, Brazil, St Efrem loaded 14,000 tonnes of sugar, 8,000 tonnes of which was meant for a Ghanaian importer, Taj Investments, with the remaining 6,000 tonnes heading for Congo Brazzaville.

Information available to the Daily Graphic also indicates that the Captain of the ship, Mr Fernandes Alejandro, was engaged in Lome, Togo on July 9, 2009 while the Chief Officer, Rene Sagre, was engaged in Santos, Brazil on August 8, 2009 with the deceased, Jose Saavedra Quinanola, engaged on August 18, 2008 in Santos, Brazil.

With the exception of one crew member, a Bangladeshi, all the other crew members are Philippinos.

Three of the Philipino crew members and the Bangladeshi were all recruited in Tema between September and November 2008.

With International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number 7617125 and San Evans Maritime as its registered owner, St Efrem had come under intelligence surveillance for a while with the Drug Enforcement Administration of the USA, the International Police Organisation (INTERPOL), Brazilian and Togolese authorities confirming the suspicion that there was contraband goods on the vessel beside the legitimate cargo.

The acting Executive Secretary of the Narcotics Control Board (NACOB), Mr Yaw Akrasi-Sarpong, told the Daily Graphic yesterday that but for such international collaboration, the vessel could have discharged the suspected cocaine along the shores of Ghana before berthing at the Tema Port.

He, however, said the Togolese and Ivorian authorities backed the Ghana Air Force and Ghana Navy with the US providing technical support to prevent the crew from dumping the suspected cocaine into the waters for their agents to pick.

“We beefed up operations at the coastal areas to monitor the ship’s movements until it berthed. We became suspicious when the captain informed the Port Master in Tema that its engine had broken down,” he said.

Mr Akrasi-Sarpong said the Ghanaian authorities became more suspicious when they received conflicting reports about its time of arrival.

He said NACOB’s international partners had provided pictures of the loading and weighing of the five bags of suspected cocaine in the vessel before it set off from Santos, Brazil to facilitate investigations.

He said the crew members had been interrogated in the presence of their lawyer, Mr Yaw Darko Asare of Beulah Chambers in Tema.

Mr Akrasi-Sarpong said impounding the vessel and its contents did not mean that the importers of the sugar were behind the cocaine importation.

He said unless the investigations proved otherwise, nobody should jump into conclusions and put out information to wrongly accuse anyone.

Story : Albert K. Salia