Libya-Bound Explosives Spark Controversy


Published Jan 12, 2018 5:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thurdsay, the owner of the freighter Andromeda told Greek media that the cargo of explosives discovered on his ship was headed to Libya for safekeeping, not for delivery. 

On Monday, Andromeda was sailing near Agios Nikolaos, Crete, when she was boarded by the Hellenic Coast Guard for an inspection. The authorities ordered her to enter port at Heraklion, where investigators found 29 countainers of ammonium nitrate and detonators. The goods and the vessel have been seized, and eight of the vessel's crewmembers were arrested. They are scheduled for a court hearing in Piraeus on Monday. 

The Hellenic Coast Guard says that the cargo was loaded in Mersin and Iskenderum, Turkey, and its bill of lading indicated that it was bound for Djibouti and Oman. However, the master told officials that he had orders to sail to Misrata, Libya to offload the shipment. The European Union forbids the transfer or sale to Libyan entities of goods that could be used for internal repression, including explosives and related equipment. 

Shipowner Theodoros Rellos told Greek agency AMNA that the arrests were a misunderstanding, and said his firm had a different reason for considering to send the ship to Libya. The charterer would not pay for the fees to bring the vessel through the Suez Canal, Rellos said, and so she transited from one anchorage to the next with her explosive cargo. The port of Misrata had simply offered storage for the cargo, an offer that the firm ultimately decided not to accept. As for the 102 deficiencies identified by port state control inspectors in Heraklion, Rellos said that the Andromeda was on her final voyage and would be bound for the scrapyard soon. 

The regional governor for Crete has called on Greece's maritime ministry and armed forces to immediately remove the Andromeda's cargo from the pier at Heraklion. "To avoid any unpleasant event, with unforeseen consequences, please proceed to all necessary actions for the immediate removal of these explosives," he wrote in a letter to the two agencies. Shipping Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis said Friday that the Hellenic Army will help move the cargo to military facilities.