Re-flagged Russian arms ship sets sail to Syria

7/14/2012

The re-flagged MV Alaed, which is carrying a cargo of arms bound for Syria, has been permitted to leave Murmansk port and is heading south along the Norwegian coast on Friday accompanied by a flotilla of six Russian warships also en route to Syria.

According to Norwegian naval sources, the vessel was about halfway down the Nordic coast at the time of publication.

The Russian FEMCO-owned ship was forced to return to Roslyakovo, a cargo port south of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet base in Severomorsk, on 19 June after UK insurer The Standard Club withdrew cover for the ship which was flying under a Curacao flag when it changed direction off the Scottish coast and was re-routed to Severomorsk. The ship arrived in the Russian port on 24 June.

A major contributing factor in the withdrawal of cover related to the MV Alaed’s mixed military cargo of Russian-made Mi25 attack helicopters, rocket launchers, air-defence systems and munitions.

Such a cargo of offensive-type weapons risked breaching a European Union arms embargo against Syria. Russia, one of the primary providers of military materials to Syria, has no such embargo in place.

Under a Russian flag, the Alaed has continued its journey under insurance cover acquired in Russia to its end destination in Tartus, Syria. The Norwegian Navy, which is monitoring the Alaed’s progress, reported Friday that the Russian flotilla was maintaining a distance of some 25 nautical miles from the ship, adding that it was standard practice for Russian warships to provide escorts for valuable military cargoes to Middle Eastern destinations.

FEMCO’s decision to re-route the Alaed to Roslyakovo, and re-flag the vessel, came in response to information passed from the UK’s Foreign Office to The Standard Club advising the insurer of the ship’s sanction-breaching cargo.

FEMCo initially denied that the ship was carrying a military cargo, but confirmed that the bulk of the Alaed’s cargo was military hardware and materials on June 20.