6 Dec 2011

Sanford's sues American Samoa government over fishing vessel detention

4:37 pm on 6 December 2011

The owner of the New Zealand fishing vessel, San Nikunau, is suing the American Samoa Treasurer and the chief customs officer for unlawful detainment.

The San Nikunau has been detained in Pago Pago since July while under investigation by the US Coast Guard for an alleged pollution violation.

Now's it's being held by the Customs Division at the request of the Coast Guard.

The owners of the vessel, New Zealand company Sanford's, has petitioned the High Court for the detention order to be lifted.

The company contends the vessel has not violated any American Samoa laws and the only reason it's being kept here is on a request from the US Coast Guard to Treasury, based on US customs law.

The company's lawyer, Jennifer Joneson, says this federal law does not apply in American Samoa and there's no assertion Sanford has breached any local law that would render the San Nikunau liable to forfeiture or to detention.

A hearing on Sanford's request is set for next week.