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16 june 2012
Official statement (+ documents)

According to information recently circulated in Russian and foreign media, bulk cargo vessel Professor Katsman operated by JSC North-Western Shipping Company (part of UCL Holding group) allegedly delivered some arms to Syria. The company officially presents the results of internal investigation to avoid any further circulation of absurd speculations.

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According to information recently circulated in Russian and foreign media, bulk cargo vessel Professor Katsman operated by JSC North-Western Shipping Company (part of UCL Holding group) allegedly delivered some arms to Syria. As  evidence, the issues claimed that on May 26, the day when this vessel arrived in Syrian port Tartus for unloading, Professor Katsman turned off the Automatic Identification System (AIS) used for identifying and locating vessels by  electronically exchanging data.

At the same time, journalists have appealed to the statements of human rights organizations and some unspecified sources. Unfortunately, none of journalists checked this information or got any true evidence or official confirmation.

We recognize such publications as an intentional attempt to harm the reputation of JSC North-Western Shipping Company and the whole UCL Holding group. In any other situation applying to the court will be just enough for us. But this time, considering the complexity and humanitarian nature of the events, the company officially presents the results of internal investigation to avoid any further circulation of absurd speculations.

According to the applicable international laws regulating sea cargo shipping, information relating to the exact composition of every item in the cargo load is known only by exporter, receiver, customs or any other governmental bodies, authorized to control the shipping process. The carrier (and/or ship-owner) is not included in this list, and thus the ship-owner, as  far as the captain and his crew, knows about the type of cargo only from consignment note. 

North-Western Shipping Company sent a request to the owner of the cargo, which was delivered to Syria by Professor Katsman – Russian company “Lira, LLC”. In its official response, the cargo owner described the cargo in details and confirmed that the cargo load contained no dangerous or suspicious items: “It was a general cargo of non-military purpose featuring electrical equipment and repair parts (rotor blades) in containers and wooden crates”.

Pofessor Katsman left the port of Saint-Petersburg on May 6, 2012. During its sale to Tartus the ship crossed the territorial waters of Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain and other European countries. According to the rules of international maritime traffic, the captain in appropriate time  informed the authorities of each country about the type and threat level of a transported cargo. By the applicable international laws regulating sea cargo shipping, each country had the full right to demand the information about the  cargo from the captain and his crew and stop the vessel for the further investigation, in case of any doubts about legal foundation of the cargo shipping to Syria. But the captain and the crew did not receive any requests from authorities of these countries. 

As for the information relating to the turned off Automatic Identification System, the captain of the vessel Professor Katsman and the management of JSC North-Western Shipping Company strongly affirm that all the transmitters on the vessel, during the sale from Saint-Petersburg to Tartus, were on and fully operational. No malfunction was detected, the captain and the crew did not turned the transmitters off and the vessel was clearly seen on monitors at any time during the route. 

The AIS system used by Professor Katsman is one of the methods for  identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and AIS Base stations in about 30 miles radius, so the base stations and vessels out of the bounds of that radius might not technically receive information about the Professor Katsman current position. Also, in the circumstances of high concentration of vessels in one specific region, AIS can glitch, and this is a common fact known by every ship-owner, carrier or  industry expert. Marinatraffic.com, which was widely used in media issues, says  that information obtained from AIS can be incomplete and incorrect and cannot substitute other onboard systems. 

That is why, in Russian and International shipping industry, crosschecks with other identifying and locating systems is a common practice. For example: “Victoria” system, which unlike AIS, can provide a more detailed information about the vessels location. The data from Victoria confirmed that the transmitters on Professor Katsman were properly functional and the vessel could be traced during the whole route. This data is available to the company. The  company is also ready to provide it upon request.

We are not surprised that human rights organizations strongly react to the news from the conflict regions. It is natural and logical for them to react in  that way, to any incident that can cause human casualties. And we support them  in their close attention to such regions. But we feel really upset when some politicians use inaccurate and unverified information. As a result, a  well-respected people, support statements which are based not on pure facts, but on gossips and their own stereotypical notions from the times of “Cold War”.  

We are also disappointed by the number of journalists, who reprinted information about Professor Katsman without even trying to contact UCL Holding representatives and check for inaccuracies in facts.

Middle East is a traditional shipping route for our company. Due to volatile situation in that region it is normal to have tightened controls by  international regulatory organizations over the content of cargoes on that route. All companies of UCL Holding group always passed all required control procedures, and from now on we will pay even more attention at the content of  cargoes transported to that region.
 
At the moment we don’t have any prove that Profesor Katsman had delivered to  Syria anything of a military nature that can be used against civilians. If  anybody will give us any proof that our company violated any rules of  international law, we will be grateful for such information and will take the necessary measures in relation to anyone responsible. 


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