Kazakhstan holds Russian, Iranian ships for safety violations

By Arman Kaliyev

An undated picture shows freighters at Aktau Port in Kazakhstan. [Aktau Port]

An undated picture shows freighters at Aktau Port in Kazakhstan. [Aktau Port]

ASTANA -- Kazakh authorities are holding four ships -- three Iranian and one Russian -- at the ports of Aktau and Bautino for numerous safety violations.

Fifty-three ships in total were inspected, but these four ships were detained, Interfax Kazakhstan reported Monday (May 21), citing the Ministry of Investments and Development.

The four ships were found to be in violation of fire safety standards and had problems with the hull containment and water seals for the doors of the cargo holds, the ministry said. They also had deficiencies with navigation and radio equipment.

The ships did not meet the requirements for sturdiness and the hulls and equipment were corroded, it said.

"In addition ... the ships' logs did not meet the requirements of international conventions and the crews' diplomas and certificates did not meet the requirements for their positions," the ministry's press office said.

"Five ships from Iran were issued notifications that had to be remedied prior to leaving port. They concerned the qualifications of the lower ranking crew members."

The administrations of Aktau and Bautino ports will write to port authorities in Russia and Iran on not permitting ships that do not meet safety standards for ocean travel to sail internationally, said the ministry.

A history of violations

Kazakh authorities have in the past encountered problems with Russian freighters violating shipping rules, including some incidents that led to potential environmental damage on the Caspian Sea.

In November 2016, the Russian ship Araks ran aground on a sandbar near Kazakhstan, raising concerns of a disaster.

The tanker was carrying more than 550 tonnes of petroleum products, processed oils, bilge water, and dirt contaminated with oil, constituting a threat to the biological environment of the Caspian.

The crew, after failing to send a disaster signal essential to starting the operation to save the ship, attempted to flee but was detained by Kazakh authorities.

The ship's owner, the Russian company Transkaspiy, ignored notifications about the need to take the tanker off the sandbar, said Nurbol Yermanov, director of the maritime administration for the ports of Aktau and Bautino.

Time to crack down on violators

It has long been time to clean house on the Caspian Sea, said Almaty political scientist Talgat Ismagambetov.

"There are Russian ships sailing here, violating all the safety requirements and posing a threat to the environment," he told Caravanserai

Kazakhstan strictly monitors ships in its waters and ports and has no intention of giving a free pass to its giant neighbour, he said.

"Kazakhstan today is undertaking attempts to distance itself from Russia, as shown by its co-operation with the United States on ensuring security in Afghanistan and providing the ports of Aktau and Kuryk on the Caspian Sea, the transition to the Latin alphabet... and also its recent position at the UN Security Council on the Syrian issue," Ismagambetov said, referring to Kazakhstan's unexpected abstention rather than a vote in favour of Russia.

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