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A vessel suspected of violating the embargo to Libya intercepted by Operation Irini (v3)

(B2) European military ships blocked a Norwegian tanker chartered by the United Arab Emirates off the coast of Libya on Thursday (10 September), caught 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 that a ship has been boarded in the open sea in violation of the embargo (at least by the EUNAVFOR Med Irini operation). And also the first time that the Germans have carried out an 'action of force' in this context. This operation perfectly illustrates the equidistance of the new European operation which intervenes on violations of the embargo on both sides, in the West (Sarraj camp) as well as in the East (Haftar camp) of Libya.

An operation provided by the Hamburg

The operation occurred at “ seven 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 "Of Royal Diamond 7, indicates the EUNAVFOR Med Irini operation in a press release. An operation carried out with the support of the Italian flagship ITS Carlo Margottini. NB: This is the German boarding team, helicoptered with the aircraft on board the Hamburg, who boarded the tanker.

The United Arab Emirates in the line of sight

This tanker - Norwegian property, 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 United Nations arms embargo on Libya. . The Europeans operated based on information provided by the United Nations Group of Experts on Libya, which highlighted the suspicious nature of this cargo ».

Aviation fuel for Haftar

Le Royal Diamond 7 had left the port of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates and was heading to Benghazi in Libya, the headquarters of Marshal Haftar's Libyan National Army. He carried “ a cargo of jet fuel, likely to be used for military purposes ". A fuel, considered 'military material' by the United Nations and, therefore, subject to the international embargo, under United Nations Security Council resolutions 2292 (2016) and 2526 (2020), specifies t -on to Operation Irini HQ in Rome.

Diverted for investigation in a European port

The ship was " roundabout » to a port in the European Union, for “ further investigation ". The final destination was still under discussion at the time of the arrest. It's a " political decision » involving the States, told B2, a person familiar with the matter. The EU ambassadors also met on Tuesday (September 14) to discuss this point (a meeting in 'reserved' format, ambassadors + 1 to maintain maximum confidentiality of discussions). In the meantime, the ship was moving slowly in the Ionian Sea (off the coast of Sicily). The port of destination could be either in Italy, or even Marseille (South of France), the port designated for arms embargo control in the EUNAVFOR Med Sophia operations plan, or in Greece.

Destination Greece

Finally, after a few days of waiting off the coast of Sicily, it seems (information at 14.9 in the morning) that the ship is heading towards Greece. Exact destination: the port of Piraeus. Confirmation this morning. « The vessel was handed over to the Hellenic Coastguard on September 17 » tells me a source close to European management. EUNAVFOR MED IRINI will then “ cooperate with the Greek authorities in the investigation, including by providing information collected during the inspection ».

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)


A significant step

This is a “ highly significant event » said Peter Stano, the spokesperson for the High Representative of the EU responding to a question from B2 this Friday noon. That " demonstrates Irini's ability to gather relevant information regarding potential violations of the UN embargo and its rapid and effective response to such violation “He also demonstrates” what we have been saying from the start: that Operation Irini is impartial. It is a concrete demonstration of the EU's commitment to the Berlin process and an instrument made available to the international community […] to implement the arms embargo and contribute to ending the conflict ". And the spokesperson for European diplomacy recalled “once again” a European request: it is “ of the responsibility of the international community as a whole to end the foreign interference fueling the conflict in Libya ».


Read also: In Libya, arms deliveries are accelerating according to the UN. The embargo is circumvented every day. Wolves in the sheepfold

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

Updated (12.9 – 14.9 – 18.9) Clarifications provided on the destination port

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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