Ship suspected of violating arms embargo to Libya intercepted by Operation Irini

(B2) European war ships blocked off Libya a Norwegian tanker chartered by the United Arab Emirates on Thursday (10 September), in violation of the international embargo. 

The German boarding team sets foot on the Royal Diamond 7 (credit: EUNAVFOR Med Irini)

This is the first time a ship has been boarded on the open sea. This operation perfectly illustrates the equidistance of the European operation EUNAVFOR Med Irini, which intervenes on the violations of the embargo on both sides of Libya, in the West (Sarraj camp) and in the East (Haftar camp).

An operation carried out by the German frigate Hamburg

The operation took place at “seven o’clock in the morning in international waters, 150 km north of the Libyan city of Derna (Cyrenaica)”. On the orders of Italian Admiral Ettore Tocci, the German frigate Hamburg then blocked “access to Libyan territorial waters” for the Royal Diamond 7, Operation EUNAVFOR Med Irini said in a statement. The operation was carried out with the support of the Italian flagship ITS Carlo Margottini. NB: It was the German boarding team, heliborne with the Hamburg’s boarding craft, that boarded the tanker.

United Arab Emirates in the firing line

This tanker – owned by Norway, flying the flag of the Marshall Islands (1), managed by a Singaporean company, but chartered by the United Arab Emirates – is suspected of having violated the UN embargo on arms to Libya. The Europeans operated “on the basis of information provided by the UN panel of experts on Libya, which highlighted the suspicious nature of the shipment”.

Aviation fuel for Haftar

The Royal Diamond 7 had left the port of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and was heading for Benghazi in Libya, the headquarters of Marshal Haftar’s Libyan National Army. It was carrying “a cargo of jet fuel, which could be used for military purposes”. A fuel, considered as ‘military equipment’ by the United Nations and, therefore, subject to the international embargo under UN Security Council Resolutions 2292 (2016) and 2526 (2020), it was said at the headquarters of Operation Irini in Rome.

Hijacked for investigation in a European port

The ship was “diverted” to a European Union port for “further investigation”. According to some information, the port of destination could be in Italy, or even in Marseilles (southern France), the port designated for monitoring the arms embargo in EUNAVFOR Med Sophia’s operations plan.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Highly significant event

This is a “highly significant event” said Peter Stano, the spokesman for the High Representative of the EU in response to a question from B2 this Friday midday. it has demonstrated Irini’s capacity to collect relevant information concerning potential violations of the UN embargo and its fast and effective response to such a violation. It demonstrates what we have said all along: that Operation Irini is impartial. It is a concrete demonstration of EU’s commitment to the Berlin Process and an instrument put at the disposal of the international community […] to implement the arms embargo and to help end the conflict”. The spokesman for European diplomacy said that “once again” the EU was making a European request: “it is the responsibility of the international community as a whole to put an end to foreign interference that feeds the conflict in Libya.”

  1. This ship owned by the Norwegian GSH 2 Chem-Prod Carrier is managed by Norstar Shipping, a company based in Singapore, Myanmar and Japan.

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).