The Korean fishing vessel Melilla 203 - alongside Dunedin's wharves for almost two and a-half years - is embroiled in further legal disputes. The stern trawler was earlier this month seized, under a High Court order, by a creditor.

The 203's sister ship Melilla 201 was seized in May 2013 by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), the 203 having came into port a month earlier.

Korean fishing vessel seized by creditor

Image: DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

Three senior officers from the 201 were successfully prosecuted last year for illegal fish dumping. The 201 departed Dunedin in January, destined for a Southeast Asian scrapyard.

The 203 had been scheduled to depart from Dunedin this week, but that had since been dropped off Port Otago's departure list.

MPI district compliance manager for Otago, Murray Pridham said, when contacted, he understood a relatively recent High Court writ was in force, over a dispute between New Zealand charter company United Fisheries in Christchurch, and the 203's owner, Tae Jin Fisheries Co Ltd, of Busan, Korea. The 203 had not been seized by MPI nor any charges laid. Its registration as a fishing vessel lapsed in March 2013.

Dunedin court staff confirmed yesterday the warrant to seize the Melilla 203 was executed on September 4 in Dunedin, the case file including an affidavit from United Fisheries chief executive Andre Kotzikas, and 28 others as plaintiffs, claiming no money had been paid from an earlier judgement.

Attempts were made to contact Mr Kotzikas, but it was understood he had only just returned to New Zealand from overseas and was unable to return calls yesterday.

Port Otago chief executive Geoff Plunket said the Melilla 203's monthly berthing charges were all up to date.
He had expected the 73m ship to be put up for sale, for scrap, but noted High Court seizures against vessels generally meant a creditor was after repayment.

Both vessels were owned by Tae Jin Fisheries Co Ltd, of Busan, and had been in New Zealand under charter to United Fisheries Ltd.
United Fisheries has its own quota, covering most of the main commercial species of New Zealand. It has company-owned and operated fishing vessels, and also used chartered deep-sea factory trawlers.

Last year's convictions were the second time the sister ships have been involved in allegations of illegal fishing, albeit with different owners.

In late 2011 and 2012, both ships were embroiled in claims by their Indonesian crews over unpaid wages, and were held in Lyttelton's port under a High Court order.

In October 2008, in the Lower Hutt District Court, the then captains of the Melilla 201 and Melilla 203, and a shore-based manager pleaded guilty and were convicted of illegal fishing, having caught fish in one area, but reported them as caught elsewhere.
The vessels were ordered forfeited to the Crown and fined $360,000 for illegal fishing. The owners had to pay a $300,000 redemption fee to get them back.

At the time the boats had been fishing in New Zealand under charter to Tauranga-based Trans Pacific Fishing Ltd and were owned by Dae Hyun Agriculture and Fisheries Co Ltd, of Korea. Both Trans Pacific Fishing Ltd and Dae Hyun Agriculture and Fisheries Co Ltd went into liquidation and the ships were sold.

In November 2004, a fisherman on the Melilla 201 was lost overboard in the Southern Ocean, his body not found.