By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 25 July 2013:
A Ukrainian car transporter and its 19 man crew, being held over claims a . . .[restrict]sister ship was used to hijack and divert a Libya-bound vehicle consignment to the Ukraine, have spent a seventh day at Benghazi Port.
For the last three days security personnel have been stationed by the vessel, following an altercation between the ship’s captain and some locals.
“The captain called radio control and said people were making problems for him in the accommodation,” Benghazi Port Manager Mustafa Al-Abar told the Libya Herald, “so we put security officers between the people and the crew.”
The people who went aboard the vessel are thought to be angry Benghazi businessmen who say they were robbed of 597 cars worth LD 12 million in March this year. There had been reports that a local militia had become involved with the case, but Al-Abar said the businessmen were “very quiet people, with no guns.”
He added that there had been no problems for the last two days, since the security men had been installed.
The ship, Etel, and its 19 Ukrainian crew, have been held since the vessel berthed in Benghazi and discharged a shipment of some 220 cars. Etel is the same design as Faina, the vessel that took the disputed 597 cars to the Ukraine.
Nearly 600 cars were loaded onto Faina at Jordan’s Aqaba Port. The vessel should then have sailed to Benghazi but changed course and went instead to the Ukraine. The vehicles were impounded by the port authorities upon arrival, according to an official Ukrainian source, and an investigation was opened.
“It is a puzzling crime,” the official admitted to the Libya Herald, “and a complicated one to investigate.” This is made more challenging because the boat was sailing under the flag of one country, understood to be Belize, and was manned by Ukrainian crew. The owner of Faina is understood to be Ukrainian, although it has not yet been confirmed whether the company also owns Etel.
The Faina does not appear to have made another voyage since its trip to Jordan. According to vessel-tracker websites, it is currently located in Ukraine’s Illichivsk Port and its last port of call was Jordan’s Aqaba Port on 6 March this year.
The crew is understood to be in good health and, if they need any supplies, Al-Abar told the Libya Herald, they can get these through their Benghazi agent.
The Benghazi-based businessmen are demanding the return of either the missing cars or the cash they paid for them, according to a Benghazi Port official. He said they had paid for the cars, as well as loading and port fees in Jordan, but had been left with nothing. [/restrict]