After numerous weapons and ammunition were seized by the governor of Svalbard on two cruise ships of a French shipping company in the summer for not having a permit, a corporate fine of 800,000 Norwegian kroner (about 81,000 euros) has now been imposed on the company, the governor announced in a press release.
When the two ships were searched in Longyearbyen in July, Norwegian authorities found 37 weapons as well as a “significant amount of ammunition” – nearly 3,800 rounds – all of which were seized because the required permit had not been obtained.
In addition, documents were discovered showing that a third vessel of the same shipping company had another 13 illegal firearms on board. However, at the time of the search, it was outside territorial waters, police attorney Magnus Rindal Fredriksen told Svalbardposten. Therefore, NOK 130,000 (a little more than 13,000 euros) were also seized, which corresponds to the value of the 13 weapons.
“We have experienced and observant case managers in the firearms department who have informed the police. That’s a sign that the system is working,” Fredriksen says. “The amount of the fine shows that this was a serious violation of the Firearms Act.”
For the shipping company, the fine of about 80,000 euros is probably bearable, but such an offense – whether intentional or accidental – does enormous damage to the entire expedition tourism around Svalbard. Most of the tour operators that work in the Arctic are members of AECO – the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators. This is also true for the French shipping company, which did neither comply with applicable law nor with AECO rules by illegally bringing weapons to Svalbard. The confidence of the governor and his staff in AECO and its members is thus likely to have experienced significant cracks.
Julia Hager, PolarJournal
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