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Bomb Threat Delays MSC Containership's Arrival at Antwerp

MSC containership
MSC Bhavya V was held offshore while police investigated the bomb threat (Port of Antwerp file photo)

Published Dec 26, 2023 11:54 AM by The Maritime Executive

An MSC containership due to arrive at the Port of Antwerp was held offshore overnight while the Belgium police investigated a bomb threat associated with the ship. While the police now believe it was a hoax, they are still investigating the report which was eerily similar to another threat almost exactly one year ago.

The Belgium Federal Police and FPS Mobility received a bomb threat in the afternoon on December 25 reporting that there would be an explosion when the MSC containership came alongside in Antwerp. The threat indicated that there was a bomb placed in a car in one of the containers that was timed to explode when the ship docked in Antwerp. 

The MSC Bhavya V, which was inbound from Hamburg, was initially ordered to remain offshore and not to enter the Western Scheldt approach to the port while the police were investigating. The ship which is 66,799 dwt and registered in Liberia anchored overnight offshore. The containership with a capacity of 5,018 TEU was following a route that brought her from Turkey in early December with a stop in Portugal before proceeding to France and Germany.

Belgium’s National Maritime Security Authority reported today that the threat “was not credible” after reviewing the situation. They said, “There are insufficient reasons to refuse the ship access to the port for security reasons.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, December 26, the vessel is underway from the anchorage off the Belgium coast. Reports are that she will dock in Antwerp by early on Wednesday, a few hours behind schedule.

In a possibly unrelated but coincidental development, the police reported that six men were found hiding in a container in the Waaslandhaven area of the port. Police reports are saying that they believe the men had been hiding in the container for up to a week and were likely what they called “extractors.” They hide in the port and wait for containers to arrive ferrying concealed drugs. The men “extract” the drugs from the containers and smuggle it out of the port to the drug cartels.

Just over a year ago, the Belgium Police received a very similar threat for another MSC containership, the MSC Lorena where the tip also said the ship would explode when it docked in Antwerp. In that case, the ship was held offshore from December 21 to 22, 2022, before the police also determined the threat was not credible. The subsequent investigation however found 2,400 kilos of cocaine on the vessel. Two people were ultimately arrested with the suggestion that the bomb threat was designed to delay the ship in a dispute among the smugglers.