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Food Aid Groups Plan Their Own Barge Delivery to Gaza

Open Arms tug with food on the pier
Courtesy Open Arms

Published Mar 10, 2024 12:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

Maritime aid organization Open Arms has shifted its mission from rescuing migrants in the Central Med to delivering aid to the beach in Gaza. The group has retasked its tugboat to the task of delivering a small barge laden with humanitarian supplies from World Central Kitchen and the government of the UAE. The vessel's back deck is also laden with supplies of food and water.

The location of the planned landing site was not immediately clear; offloading a vessel of Open Arms' size would require a pier or a lightering operation. A representative for World Central Kitchen said that the supplies would be offloaded by crane, but did not provide further details. Oscar Camps, the head of Open Arms, told BBC that the last mile of the three-day voyage would be "the most complicated operation." 

According to Reuters, World Central Kitchen is working on building its own jetty out of rubble in Gaza.

Israeli officials are inspecting all of the cargo at the pier in Larnaca, Cyprus before it departs, ensuring that there are no concealed security-sensitive items on board. Israel has sealed Gaza's maritime border to all traffic since 2007 in order to prevent any possibility of weapons transfers to the terrorist group Hamas. 

A spokesperson for Open Arms told the AFP that the tug will depart the port of Larnaca as soon as it has authorization, which could be as early as Sunday. 

Courtesy World Central Kitchen

The aid deliveries will help alleviate the approaching risk of famine. According to the UN, a quarter of the population of Gaza faces the risk of starvation, and the worst conditions are concentrated in the hard-to-reach northern end of the strip. All Gazans currently face "crisis" levels of malnutrition or worse, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, and an estimated 23 people have died of hunger to date. 

The U.S. military will be setting up a temporary pier from a beachhead in Gaza for aid deliveries in the weeks to come. The EU is also considering a formal "aid corridor" mechanism running from Larnaca to Gaza, though its landing point is as-yet unclear. Gaza does not have a deepwater port, and Israeli bombardment damaged the sole shallow-water fishing port at Gaza City in the early months of the conflict.