Potential Hot Spots: May 11, 2003


: For the first time since Independence, the Mozambican navy has been involved in a fire fight on the high seas. A "pirate" trawler involved in a clash with a Mozambican armed forces (FADM) patrol boat during the first week of May was towed away under cover of darkness five days later, after drifting on the high seas off the coast of the southern province of Inhambane. 

The patrol boat intercepted the trawler on the afternoon of the 7th fishing illegally near the Bazaruto archipelago. The pirates opened fire, injuring several Mozambican marines (one severely). The Mozambican vessel returned fire with "bazookas" but finding themselves outnumbered by the larger vessel's crew, the patrol boat withdrew. However, the Mozambicans managed to incapacitate the larger vessel and hit its' communications mast. 

The only problem was that the fishing vessel was Chinese, and China is a benefactor of Mozambique. An agreement was made between the Mozambican military authorities and the Chinese to allow the trawler to be towed away. Like the trawler, the tug bore inscriptions in Chinese characters. The FADM team at the incident site took photographs of the damaged vessel and their own patrol boat.

While the military have confirmed the incident, the civilian maritime authorities steadfastly claimed they knew nothing about it. Adolfo Macossa, head of the Inhambane maritime inspection office, initially told the press that his office had no record of the clash (as did a Chinese embassy spokesman).

While the Mozambican military would have had every right to board the pirate vessel and escort it into a Mozambican port, they received orders not to do so. This means that the Mozambican authorities never discovered how much fish was stolen and were unable to inspect the ship's log books. Another interesting footnote is just how well-armed Chinese trawlers are these day,  fishing being such a dangerous business.

China has been "cooperating" with Mozambique's armed forces ever since independence in 1975. In April 2003, they donated four tractors, two trucks, a bulldozer, a concrete mixer, a steamroller, assorted spare parts for these vehicles and machines, along with considerable quantities of logistical and medical equipment.

However, fish is an important cash crop for the African nation. Mozambique exported a total of 19,500 tons of assorted fish products in 2002, earning about $93.5 million. Although this figure is about a 40 per cent over the 2001 figures (when the country exported 13,920 tons), the foreign exchange earned declined sharply due to the drop in prices of fish produce (particularly of gamba and prawns) on the international market. - Adam Geibel

An example of typical Chinese-made Fishing Trawlers (ironically, for sale in Mozambique), online at:


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