By Seraj Essul.
Tripoli, 1 September 2013:
The Ukrainian car transporter MV Etel was finally permitted to sail out of Benghazi harbour this . . .[restrict]afternoon, after six weeks of detention, leaving in its wake a furious row between Benghazi businessmen, some of whom claim they are still out of pocket.
The MV Etel was detained because a sister ship, the MV Faina operated by the same shipping company, Tomex Team, this March failed to deliver a cargo of 597 cars from Jordan to Benghazi, taking them instead to Ukraine.
The vehicles were impounded by the Ukrainian authorities. The Libyan consignees maintained that they sought the release of the cars worth some $16 million, through the Ukrainian courts. In the end however, when the MV Etel arrived with its own cargo 220 vehicles on 21 July, the investors seized the vessel and detained the 19 crew, later backing up their action with an order from Benghazi North court.
The vehicles in Ukraine were finally released two weeks ago and were loaded onto the Greek car carrier, MV Sea Amazon which arrived in Benghazi last week. However, Mykhailo Cononow the MV Etel’s captain was told that he could not leave until the court gave permission.
One of the investors, Nasser Ajaj, asserted that the shipping agents on the deal were seriously out of pocket. They were looking for LD 1 million in damages as well as their port, shipping and legal costs, since the cars were first shipped from Jordan.
However, Abd Al-Rauf Al-Tajoury, one of a group of 25 Benghazi businessmen who bought the cars from Jordan, today told the Libya Herald: “As soon as we got our cars back, we kept our promise to release the ship. There has been no talk about compensation”.
Accordingly at 1.00 pm today the Benghazi North court issued an order permitting the departure of the MV Etel, which immediately began to get up steam and left three hours later.
As soon as the shipping agent investors heard of the court’s order, there were frantic efforts this afternoon to have it reversed, but a key lawyer could not be found.
Nasser Ajaj told this newspaper: “The other investors released the ship themselves. They ignored the law. I was trying to get my lawyer on the case, but I could not get hold of him. I am very angry.”
Ajaj said that unlike the other investors, who were happy that they now had their vehicles, the shipping agents involved in the deal were LD 586,00 out of pocket. That sum would need to be recovered by legal action, although he declined to say against whom a suit might be brought.
With input from Tom Westcott