Five suspected spy ships spotted off Belgian coast in six months

Over the past six months, at least five non-military vessels have passed in the North Sea off the Belgian coast that Belgian security services suspect are involved in espionage. That reports public broadcaster VRT on the basis of information from the Belgian Maritime Security Cell.

“Espionage is now more difficult to detect than in the past: where previously mainly research vessels or military ships were used, we now notice that non-military ships are used more often," said Thomas De Spiegelaere, spokesman for the Belgian Maritime Security Cell, to VRT. “These are merchant ships, for example, but they can also be fishing vessels.” He added that it’s for example suspicious if they suddenly start moving much slower.

The cabinet of Justice and North Sea minister Paul Van Tigchelt confirmed this trend. "For example, Chinese dredgers have dual status and can be used for military use in addition to economic use. That doesn’t make detection any easier of course."

Belgian security services are in particular keeping an eye on the Russian shipping company Norebo. The Russian fishing company has more than 40 vessels, which fish for cod and saithe in the Norwegian Sea, the Barents Sea and the Pacific Ocean. One of Norebo's vessels, the Taurus, was linked to espionage in late 2022, when it made "unusual movements" that coincided with the surfacing of US submarines.

The Maritime Security Cell confirmed that this shipping company's vessels are also being monitored in our country. This includes, for example, the 'Kapitan Sokolov', which has been spotted several times in the North Sea off the Belgian coast. "It’s a ship with a lot of technology on board, which can be used both for fishing and possibly also for espionage activities," De Spiegelaere said.

Norebo itself denies any involvement in espionage.

#FlandersNewsService | The North Sea off the Belgian coast © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE


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