Tuesday, May 18

The new life of an old ‘narco-ship’


It happened two and a half years ago, at 6:55 a.m. on October 17, 2018. After several days of investigations and information exchange between international agencies, a team of Special Operations Groups (GEO) of the National Police carried out the boarding of the Breath, a tugboat that was sailing suspiciously about 1,000 miles west of the Canary Islands bound for some undetermined European port. The agents found on board just over a ton of cocaine divided into 41 bundles that were unloaded a few days later at the Arsenal in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The ship was seized in the same operation and has since remained in the Port of La LuzAlthough the Port Authority of Las Palmas has managed to sell it at auction and it will soon begin a new life at sea, already far from the international drug mafias.

The journey of the Breath before its capture had been similar to that of so many other ships used for the illicit transport of narcotic substances between America and Europe. The official information of the ship indicated that it had sailed from a Turkish port and was heading to Mauritania, but after making a stopover in Ceuta and crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, it changed course and reached the vicinity of Trinidad, in the Caribbean. That was not the only one behavior that turned out to be suspicious for the Police, the American DEA and the British NCA. Once in the Antilles, the Breath He turned off the AIS positioning system and began to navigate with a circular path between the island and Venezuela.

In those waters he received the cargo, consisting of 41 ballasted, marked bales and “prepared to be thrown into the sea”, as was proven in the sentence by which the National Court sentenced the ten crew members of the ship to more than six years in prison. The seized cocaine would have reached a value of 41 million euros on the market, according to the court.

Fire in the engine room

The Breath had to arrive at the Port of Las Palmas escorted by the maritime action ship Lightning of the Navy after suffering a fire in the engine room, and once in the capital compound he was left to his fate, although attended by the Port Authority of Las Palmas within its insurance, maintenance and control contract.

The ship, upon arrival at the Naval Base in 2018. J. PÉREZ CURBELO


The process to release the ship has taken a little over two years, as the port administration needs to obtain judicial authorization before auctioning the seized boats, and in the case of the tugboat it arrived in February 2019. From then on, a disposal process began that had to be repeated up to three times due to the lack of offers and other setbacks.

At the first auction, the ship left for sale for 500,000 euros, amount that had been fixed in an inspection of the Maritime Captaincy given its relatively good state of conservation. The report stipulated that the boat could be sold “on the second-hand market and not for scrap,” but no one bid for that price at the first auction, held in spring 2019.

Dry repair

The Breath, which has spent a good part of this time encompassing other abandoned ships in the Fransari wharf, went up for auction again in June of that same year together with the Titan III and to Maid of Orleans, From narcobuques Also docked in Las Palmas, but could not be sold on that occasion despite the reduction in the starting price. The National Court had to authorize in January 2020 the realization of a new auction for a reduced value, equivalent to 30% of the appraisal indicated by the Maritime Captaincy inspector. That third call, scheduled for April 20 of last year, had to be suspended due to the state of alarm and was not resumed until October 30. That day, the tugboat was finally acquired by a new owner who disbursed 155,000 euros, as indicated by the Port Authority of Las Palmas.

Once sold, the Repnaval Zamakona shipyard takes care of its fine-tuning


decoration

Although the state of conservation of the Breath it is not as bad as other old ones narcobuques, needs repairs before going to sea again. The report prepared by the Maritime Captaincy inspector in 2019 repeated on several occasions that the ship “is not in very bad condition”, but also recognized the need to undertake work on the hull -the live work showed corrosion and lack of maintenance- and equipment. The ship still remained docked for some time at the Sanapú dock after the auction, but since Tuesday it has been in one of the stranded streets of the shipyard Repnaval-Zamakona, where it will be fine-tuned. In vessel identification and location services such as Vesselfinder it already appears with its new name, Apollo Sun.


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