Höegh car carrier seized at Mombasa, port security tightened

Security agencies carried out a surprise raid at Mombasa port at midnight on Thursday, seizing a Höegh Autoliners car carrier believed to be smuggling drugs and firearms into the country.

The PCTC Hoegh Transporter (6,500 ceu, built 1999) is fully laden, according to AIS data, and is moored at Mombasa Port’s Berth 13.

Commandos from the General Service Unit (GSU), the paramilitary wing in the National Police Service of Kenya, are currently guarding the ship while it is searched.

Mombasa police commander Francis Wanjohi told the Xinhua news agency that police were holding the ship for allegedly trafficking narcotics and firearms.

Höegh Autoliners said in a statement today: “The vessel came from Mumbai, India. After berthing, the vessel was boarded by Kenyan authorities, who requested to inspect the cargo to be discharged in Mombasa. The vessel’s crew, our local agent in Kenya and Höegh Autoliners’ local African operations team is cooperating fully with Kenyan authorities. We at this point do not know when the inspection will be completed and the vessel cleared to sail.”

There has not yet been any confirmation of what illegal cargo has been found onboard, but Wanjohi said news would follow after inspection of the vessel had been completed.

Officers seized the ship after receiving highly classified intelligence information shared by foreign security agencies.

As well as the GSU, soldiers from the Kenya Defence Force (KDF), the police’s anti-narcotics unit and other police personnel are maintaining a presence at the port. The officers have been installed at all entrances and exits to the port. The main entrance has reportedly been reopened.

All port employees and security guards have been sent home to make way for the military and police forces until the suspicious ship has been dealt with.

“It was a precautionary measure that was taken for the sake of all. We have security officials manning the area waiting verification and we will inform the public the way forward after inspection,” Wanjohi told the Chinese news agency. “We had to wait until it arrived then moved in. The area is calm for now but verification will take time.”

In August, Kenyan authorities reportedly blew up a yacht that was found trying to smuggle in 7.6kg of heroin worth $200,000 into the country while underway off the Kenyan coast.

Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.
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