Insurance Weapon

However efficient Gunboat diplomacy may once have been, it is neither desirable or implementable in the context of the ongoing Syrian crisis. The geopolitical considerations that have to be taken into account before any actions, manoeuvres or decisions can be made are complex to say the least.

The denial of marine cover to the Russian vessel carrying helicopters destined to President Assad’s forces results, for the moment, as being astute, diplomatic and efficient.

Standard Club’s decision to cancel the insurance cover of Femco-Management Limited, the owners of the MV Alaed, should be applauded and supported not only by the maritime community but by all of those who understand the importance of denying Assad’s regime access to sophisticated weaponry.

The underwriters’ actions, taken after consultations with the UK Foreign Office, have had an immediate effect, but should the vessel’s Russian owners stipulate a new policy elsewhere then all may have been in vain.

In the meantime Moscow will have to decide whether to tranship and attempt the voyage with another vessel – not the easiest of tasks when the world is watching you – or to momentarily suspend the return of the refurbished aircraft.


Russian arms shipment bound for Syria foiled by Britain’s insurers
By Ian Black and Severin Carrell, The Guardian

In the 19th century Britain practised gunboat diplomacy to confound its enemies. Now the UK has struck at a 21st century scourge by using the weapon of insurance – denying cover to a Russian ship returning refurbished helicopters to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

News of the tortuous journey of the MV Alaed emerged last week when Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, accused Moscow of supplying attack helicopters to Damascus on the basis of what diplomats described as an intelligence operation.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, confirmed on Tuesday that the ship, thought to have sailed from Kaliningrad, in the Baltic, had now turned back to Murmansk in northern Russia. It had been heading for the Straits of Dover.

Urgent consultations took place in Washington and London as the ship was tracked – by the UK National Maritime Agency – off the coasts of northern Scotland, Denmark and the Netherlands, changing course and speed to throw those watching it off the scent. It is understood to have at times been……[access full article]

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