On 6 January, the ship Andromeda sailing under a Tanzanian flag near Crete was boarded by the Special Mission Deployment Team of the Greek Coast Guard and the Customs Office of Crete. Two days later, Greek authorities unloaded and inspected the ship to find that it contained 29 containers of explosives (detonators and other equipment) and 11 empty Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) tanks. The ship’s bills of lading showed the containers were loaded from the ports of Mersin and Iskenderum in Turkey and were to be shipped to a Djibouti landing port, while the LPG tanks were supposed to be off loaded in Oman after being collected from the port of Iskenderun in Turkey.
It has been reported that, upon investigation, the shipmaster was to deliver the entire cargo to the port of Misrata – in violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya, which began in 2011. Indeed, the Misrata Free Zone, which manages Misrata port, and the Misrata municipal council issued statements announcing that although the vessel was expected to arrive this week, it did not dock or anchor at the port. They stated that no other information was available. The ship’s crew of eight, made up of two Ukrainians, five Indians and one Albanian, have all been arrested and the cargo seized.
In the wake of the event, statements from representatives of both the House of Representatives (HoR) and the Government of National Accord (GNA) condemned the incident and indicated their concerns about the violation of the UN arms embargo. The Turkish embassy in Tripoli issued a statement saying the ship was headed to Ethiopia not Libya and has requested Greek authorities to provide documents and crew testimonies. The statement also reiterated Turkey’s commitment to the UN embargo and clarified that they were in contact with the GNA in Tripoli over the matter. However, this is not the first time that arms and ammunition have been loaded from Iskenderum port. In September 2015, a ship loaded from the port carrying 5,000 shotguns and half a million bullets was seized after attempting to smuggle them to Misrata. The Libyan National Army released a statement describing the Andromeda’s cargo as being intended for “building bombs used for terrorist acts” and accused Turkey of aiding and abetting terrorism in Libya, imploring the UN, EU, Arab League, and African Union to pursue the incident as a war crime.