Russians plan to seize vessel after Coast Guard chase

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Russian authorities say they'll seize a fishing vessel and file criminal charges against the master after it was spotted fishing in the U.S. zone and refused orders to halt, the Coast Guard reported.

Russian authorities boarded the vessel Friday and found evidence someone had tampered with the logs, said Petty Officer Christopher Grisafe of the Coast Guard.

The 345-foot Kapitan Maslovets was spotted more than half a mile inside the U.S. exclusive economic zone Tuesday afternoon in an area about 990 miles west of Anchorage. A Coast Guard helicopter crew watched and videotaped as the crew hauled back its nets filled with fish. But the ship didn't respond to the helicopter crew's call to wait for a Coast Guard boarding team.

The ship instead steamed out of the U.S. zone and into international waters, where the cutter Morganthau caught up, Grisafe said. The master of the Russian ship did respond to calls from the Morganthau, Grisafe said, but told the Coast Guard he was concerned about an injured crewman and headed for port. He refused to stop, and rejected offers of medical aid from the Morganthau. The chase continued for several hours.

But once the ships reached the Russian zone, the Morganthau halted and waited for Russian border patrollers, Grisafe said.

A team from the Russian patrol vessel Pagella met with their Coast Guard counterparts Thursday night.

''The Coast Guard turned over evidence to the Russians saying, 'We spotted these guys and here's the video of what they did,''' Grisafe related.

The Pagella then sent a boarding party aboard the Kapitan Maslovets Friday and gathered evidence. After that, the Russian authorities said they planned to take action.

''Because the Russians have tentatively decided to seize the vessel, arrest its master and file criminal charges, it's apparent that our cooperative efforts with them on the boundary line is successful and will continue to pay off,'' said Capt. Richard Houck, 17th Coast Guard District Chief of Staff, in a statement.

Some of the evidence gathered aboard the Kapitan Maslovets included logs that didn't correlate with the actual type of fish in the ship's holds, the Coast Guard said.

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