Thursday, March 17, 2011

Freight Forwarders And Container Lines Must Check All Middle East Cargoes

Heightened Tensions in the Wake of Israeli Weapons Seizure
Shipping News Feature

MIDDLE EAST - The security situation in the region appears to be deteriorating as the eyes of the world are averted to events in Japan and North Africa. Shippers should be even more aware than ever to ensure freight consignments bound for the region comply with all regulations after Israeli forces seized the Iranian registered MV Victoria and have now issued pictures of her cargo of sophisticated weapons. British freight forwarders have been accused previously of colluding in the illicit arms trade.

In the light of this latest shipment, which the Israelis say is undeniably of Iranian origin, they will doubtless raise the matter with the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee who are currently discussing the increasing number of transgressions by Iran of the Council’s Resolution 1747, pointing out that that this is only one of at least five seizures of Iranian supplied arms in the past six months. The Israeli Foreign Ministry say this contraband weaponry has been discovered in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Italy, the Mediterranean Sea and Southeast Asia.

The history of stoppages by Israeli forces themselves illustrates the dangers which pervade the transport of goods in the seas around the coasts of Arabia; in November 2009 the Antiguan flagged MV Francop was found to be carrying thirty six containers of munitions with a total gross weight of around five hundred tonnes. The weaponry included 122mm Katyusha rockets labelled as machine parts and the Israelis stated at the time that the goods originated in Iran and were bound for Hizbullah. The final manifest mirrored a previous capture, the MV Karine A in 2002, which was found to contain fifty tonnes of Katyusha’s plus assorted anti tank missiles, mortars, mines and rifles.

After two Iranian vessels passed through the Suez Canal last month for the first time on a visit to Syria causing Israeli alarm, the seizure of the Victoria on Tuesday en route from Syria to Egypt was followed by an Israeli attack on an alleged Hamas training base the next day resulting in two deaths. The situation has resulted in tensions even higher than normal for the troubled area and forwarding agents and carriers handling consignments destined for the region are advised to take even more care than usual to ensure that they are fully aware of the precise nature of the cargo.

Photo: The Iranian frigate Alvand passing through the Suez Canal last month and inset a sample of the munitions seized from the Victoria this week.