The European Union’s Operation Irini taskforce has intercepted a Dutch multipurpose cargo ship carrying military vehicles to Libya.

The 4,400-dwt Meerdijk (built 2010) was boarded for an inspection off the coast of Libya on 11 November.

Operation Irini said it was carrying cargo that represented a “possible violation” of the United Nations arms embargo.

A European military vessel operating in the central Mediterranean for Irini had detected the Meerdijk on its way to Libya.

The Netherlands, as the ship’s flag state, gave consent without delay for the inspection, Operation Irini added.

“The boarding team discovered dozens of military vehicles shipped in possible violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya,” the agency said..

“In line with the operation’s mandate, the vehicles were seized and the ship was diverted to a European port for further inspection. Following the inspection by the UN Panel of Experts, the vehicles were disembarked and stored ashore.”

The last AIS update showed the Meerdijk underway on Sunday in the western Mediterranean, bound for Gibraltar.

It had left Tsingeli in Greece on 10 November.

Operator Navigia Group of the Netherlands said in a statement: “Following the inspection, a number of vehicles were seized in relation to an alleged breach of sanctions against Libya. Meerdijk was diverted to a nearby port, with the vehicles being discharged.”

The company said it takes its responsibilities as an internationally operating shipping line seriously, complying with all applicable laws and adhering to all sanctions.

Navigia said it has been providing full cooperation to Operation Irini.

“Before entering cargo operations, owner and managers always make every effort to ensure all necessary permits and documents have been issued by the relevant authorities,” it said.

“Following the inspection, Meerdijk has been cleared by all relevant authorities to proceed its voyage and continue trading. No charges have been brought against the owners, managers and crew of the vessel.”

25 inspections at sea

Since March 2020, Irini has carried out 25 inspections at sea.

In July, the agency said it seized a cargo of military vehicles on a ro-ro off the coast of Libya when the 852-lane-metre Victory Roro (built 1978) was intercepted.

The Equatorial Guinea-flag ship had long been suspected of transferring military equipment to Libya, Operation Irini said.

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Under the name Luccello, flying the flag of Comoros, the ro-ro was identified by the UN Panel of Experts on Libya as having delivered such equipment in March.

Databases list the vessel as controlled by an unknown owner, possibly based in Turkey, which acquired it in March from Medred Ship Management.