Turkey launches probe into Tanzanian ship seized with explosives

14Jan 2018
Guardian On Sunday
Turkey launches probe into Tanzanian ship seized with explosives

TURKISH officials are investigating reports that a Tanzania-flagged ship was seized by Greek authorities for allegedly carrying an illegal consignment of explosives to Libya after sailing from Turkey last week.

Turkey’s embassy in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, said in a statement yesterday that the ship had permission to transport goods from Turkey to Ethiopia, not to Libya, and that Ankara has been complying scrupulously with United Nations resolutions. 

“Relevant officials in the Republic of Turkey have launched the necessary investigation into the report that the Tanzania-flagged cargo vessel Andromeda was seized by the Greek Coast Guard on Jan. 7, 2018 as it was carrying materials used for making explosives from the Mersin and Iskenderun ports of Turkey to Libya,” said an embassy statement. 

“According to initial findings, it was informed that the ship would go to Djibouti port (the country Ethiopia’s sea-transported imports come into) after departing from the (Turkish Mediterranean) port of Mersin on Nov. 23, 2017, and it was also declared that the vessel carried 419,360 kilogrammes of ‘dangerous’ materials in 29 full containers,” it added. 

The investigation into the documents of the ship found that “there were detonated wick, ANFO, power gel magnum, cable, electric and non-electric capsule and ammonium nitrate solution-type materials on board to be delivered to various firms in Ethiopia,” the statement said. 

“The permission deemed necessary under Turkish law for these items to be exported to Ethiopia had been obtained,” it added. 

“It has been determined that the ship had been loaded with static tanks, tanker trailers, and overhead static tanks from the port of Iskenderun, which was the ship’s previous stop before the port of Mersin, to be delivered to Yemen and Oman.” 

The embassy stated “this preliminary data shows that the exports were done according to procedure and that the materials which departed from Turkey would not be sent to Libya.” 

It added that a detailed investigation is ongoing, saying: “We require that the documents captured by the Greek authorities from the ship, as well as the statements of the crew and all other complementary documents and information, be urgently sent to Turkish authorities.” 

The embassy is in close contact with the Foreign Ministry of the Libyan Government of National Accord, it said, adding that the information already gathered and to be gathered on the incident is being shared with the Libyan state and the UN. 

Turkey has been complying scrupulously with the arms embargo on Libya and cooperating closely with the UN on this issue, said the statement. 

European Union and United Nations-imposed arms embargoes have prohibited the sale, supply or transfer of arms to Libya since 2011.

According to the ship’s bill of lading, the cargo had been loaded in the Turkish ports of Mersin and Iskenderum and was destined for Djibouti and Oman.

But the coastguard said a preliminary investigation found the captain had been ordered by the vessel’s owner to sail to the Libyan city of Misrata to unload and deliver the entire cargo.

No shipping maps were found on the ship’s logbook for the Djibouti and Oman areas, the coastguard said. 

All eight crew members on the Tanzania-flagged ship, including 2 Ukrainians, 5 Indians and 1 Albanian nationalities, were put under arrest. 

Tanzania has previously been accused of allowing Iranian and North Korean ships to fly its flag and violate UN sanctions. 

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