Libyan Coast Guard Shells and Sinks Product Tanker

Published Oct 11, 2017 3:18 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, the Libyan coastguard shelled and sank the product tanker Goeast off Abu Kammash, Libya, near the border with Tunisia. The vessel spilled an unknown quantity of diesel and capsized. 

Libyan officials said in a social media post that the vessel had been loading fuel from an offshore loading pipeline. A coast guard vessel reportedly approached and attempted to contact the Goast to prepare for boarding and inspection. When the coast guard received no response, they opened fire, striking the tanker's engine room and one of her cargo tanks, according to spokesman Ayoub Gassem, speaking to Libya Herald. Video from the scene shows the patrol vessel circling the tanker and firing repeatedly at her hull. The action was intended to send a firm "message" to any future fuel smugglers. 

The coast guard did not immediately mention the fate of the Goeast's crew, nor whether pollution control measures were undertaken. According to Libyan officials, the vessel was loaded with about 9,000 tons of diesel, near to its maximum capacity of 9,700 dwt. 

The Comoros-flagged, 1977-built Goeast was one of four vessels owned by Uvas-Trans, a shipping firm based in Russian-controlled Crimea. She was not the first of the firm's vessels to be accused of fuel smuggling. In 2015, the Uvas-Trans product tanker Smolny was detained near Kerch by the Russian Federal Security Service on charges of entering Russian waters and bunkering other vessels with undocumented diesel. "The crew . . . lacked the entire service documentation and the [AIS]. This means the [Smolny] was actually a ghost invisible for state controlling bodies," the FSB told state news outlet TASS.