Searches and Threats

German ship subjected to a search in Turkey was originally to have made a stop in Tartus, Syria. The owners halted the journey after receiving an email from a Syrian opposition group threatening to destroy the vessel before it reached Tartus harbor

Turkey searches German ship over Syria arms claim

By Selcan Hacaoglu, Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkish authorities searched a German-owned ship over allegations it was carrying weapons for Syria, a customs official said Thursday.

The owner of the Atlantic Cruiser, meanwhile, said the ship never carried any such weapons, but it had on board blasting caps of a kind used in the energy industry that were bound for Montenegro.

The Turkish customs official, who spoke anonymously in line with government rules, said it was not clear how long the search on the 6,204-gross ton ship would last. It was taking place at the eastern Mediterranean port of Iskenderun, where the ship was already scheduled to unload goods.

Turkey enforces an arms embargo against Syria’s government because of its yearlong crackdown on a popular uprising, which is estimated to have left more than 9,000 people dead.

The German owner of the ship, W. Bockstiegel Reederei, said it had asked Turkish authorities, after consulting with Germany, to check the cargo – but that unloading was interrupted Thursday afternoon because of a storm.

In an emailed statement on Thursday evening, Bockstiegel said the ship originally was supposed to make a stop in Tartus, Syria. But the company said it halted the journey after receiving an email from a Syrian opposition group named “One Syreansea.”

The mail said that “the M/V ‘Atlantic Cruiser’ will be destroyed before it arrives in Tartus harbor,” Bockstiegel said.

The group claimed that “heavy weapons and munitions” for the regime of President Bashar Assad were to be transported to Syria, the company added.

That was untrue, Bockstiegel said. “In fact, alongside general cargo, the freighter had 31 tons of seismographic blasting caps on board as are used in searching for gas and oil in rock. The destination is Bar in Montenegro.”

Bockstiegel has said it had a long-standing relationship with the Ukrainian company that chartered the ship and had no problems in the past. The contract also stipulates that the ship only be used for “lawful cargo,” it says.

The goods being carried by the Antigua & Barbuda-flagged ship were loaded on board in Mumbai, India, destined for Syria, Turkey and Montenegro. A delivery had already been made to Djibouti, but nothing new was taken on board there, the shipping company says.

According to the company’s records, the shipment for Syria consisted of parts for a thermal power station project.

The company says it has remained in close contact with the German government on the issue, which is looking into a possible breach of a European Union arms embargo against Syria. It has stressed that it “adheres to the law closely,” including the weapons embargo.

Source: Associated Press

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