By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 5 August 2013:
The release of Ukrainian sailors held in Benghazi over a diverted cargo of vehicles on board . . .[restrict]another Ukrainian vessel, is reportedly imminent, following a Ukrainian court ruling that the vehicles be returned to their Libyan consignees.
The car transporter, the Etel and its 19-man crew have been held since 21 July at Benghazi port after discharging 220 vehicles. The move was prompted by local businessmen, who claimed that this March a sister ship, the Faina had diverted to the Ukraine, with a shipment of 597 cars worth LD12 million loaded in Jordan and destined for Libya. The Libyan investors, who had paid for the vehicles and their shipment were demanding the goods or their money back.
A court in the Ukraine has reportedly now ordered that the vehicles, which were impounded after they were unloaded in Odessa, be shipped to Libya. However it has not been established that the Belize-flagged Etel and the Faina have the same owner.
The Ukrainian government argument all along has been that there is no link between the detention of the Etel and its crew and the alleged theft of the Libyan-bound cars on board the Faina. This was the position that Ukrainian deputy premier Kostiantyn Hryschenko adopted when he visited Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in Tripoli last week. The two men also discussed the position of 19 Ukrainian engineers currently awaiting the outcome of military court appeal against their conviction for helping Qaddafi forces repair ground to air missile systems. They, with three Belorussian and two Russian engineers have always denied the charges, protesting that they were brought to Libya to help repair oil field equipment.
Well-placed sources have told the Libya Herald that Zeidan told Hryschenko that the lives and health of the Etel’s crew were not in danger. It is also said that there is considerable anger in Kiev at what was described as inaccurate and speculative reporting of the whole Etel incident. [/restrict]