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Military Sealift Ro/Ro Departs Tacoma Despite Pro-Palestinian Protest

Cape Orlando (file image courtesy MARAD)
Cape Orlando (file image courtesy MARAD)

Published Nov 7, 2023 9:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

The civilian-crewed sealift ship Cape Orlando has loaded cargo at the Port of Tacoma and departed, despite the efforts of pro-Palestinian demonstrators to block the ship's progress. Protest organizers believe that the ro/ro ship was in Tacoma to take on a cargo of military aid for Israel, part of the Biden administration's effort to support Israeli self-defense.

According to protest organizers, several hundred people arrived at the terminal gates Monday morning in an attempt to block cargo operations for the Cape Orlando. A small group of kayaking protesters and members of the Salish tribe attended from the water side, monitored by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol vessel. 

The degree of any impact on Cape Orlando's schedule appears to have been limited, and the vessel departed Tacoma later the same day. The U.S. military has declined to comment on sealift movements like Cape Orlando's, citing its operational security policy, and the ship has ceased transmitting her position on AIS. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Unlike the previous protest at Port of Oakland, the demonstrators did not breach the security perimeter or board the ship. According to the Coast Guard, three protesters who worked their way onto the Cape Orlando's pilot ladder in Oakland are under investigation for potential violations of federal law.

The protest's organizers believe that Cape Orlando is now headed to Israel. The Israeli military is currently engaged in an operation to eliminate Hamas, the terrorist organization that killed 1,400 Israeli civilians and military personnel on October 7.  

So far, an estimated 10,000 Gazan residents have passed away during the Israeli response, though the numbers are provided by a Hamas-controlled health agency and cannot be verified. The conflict has polarized the American public, and the protest at Oakland was not an isolated incident: On Saturday, thousands marched in San Francisco and Washington to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The stevedores' union of the port of Barcelona (OEPB) has also indicated that it would block arms shipments, though it is not known whether such shipments were planned through ports in Catalonia. 

"We have decided in assembly not to allow our port the activity of ships containing war materiel, with the sole purpose of protecting the civilian population, whatever the territory. No cause justifies the sacrifice of civilians," said the OEPB in a statement. "We pray that an immediate ceasefire be proclaimed and the search for peaceful solutions to the various conflicts."