A mysterious ship carrying 410 tons of potential explosives seized near Crete is being searched by the authorities, as its owner warns any accident “could turn half of Heraklion into the Sahara desert”.
Andromeda, a Tanzanian-flagged cargo vessel intercepted while sailing south of Crete, has been on a European blacklist for the past three years, the Athens Macedonia News Agency reports.
A search of the ship last week found materials including ammonium nitrate, non-electric detonators and 11 empty liquefied petroleum gas tanks.
Greek authorities spied the vessel sailing suspiciously between Cyprus and Libya. It was stopped as it approached the Cretan port of Agios Nikolaos, where it was seized.
On Monday morning, the Andromeda was escorted to the port of Heraklion by the Greek coast guard for further inspection.
The vessel had apparently sailed from Turkey with destinations in Djibouti and Oman. The dangerous cargo had been accompanied by the necessary manifest documents but during the investigation it emerged the ship was actually destined for Libya’s Misrata port.
EU and United Nations-imposed arms embargoes have prohibited the sale, supply or transfer of arms to Libya since 2011.
“The captain had been instructed by the owner to go to the port of Misrata in Libya to unload the cargo as a whole,” the Port Authority was quoted as saying.
The Andromeda has a colorful history. In 2015, after information from the European authorities, the Hellenic Coast Guard investigated the vessel in the Ionian Sea en route to Albania.
During the search it was found the vessel was carrying sacks of ammonium nitrate, which after processing can be converted into explosives. However, a prosecutor later ordered the release of the ship and its crew.
Andromeda’s owner is an offshore company headquartered in the Marshall Islands and has a Greek address in Menidi.
In a written statement sent to the Cretapost news site, Theodoros Rellos, manager of the company, claimed he was a victim of fraud and issued a stern warning about the Andromeda’s contents.
“On 25 November the ship was in Suez ready to pass the canal in the direction of Djibouti. But the Turkish charterers did not seem willing to pay either us or the toll for the passage through the canal. In short, our company has been a victim of fraud.
“So, since November 25, we have a ship that sails around the eastern Mediterranean without being able to go anywhere because of its dangerous cargo,” he wrote.