Greek-led Operation IRINI proceeded with the seizure of the commercial vessel MV Meerdijk on October 11. According to an announcement made on Wednesday, the ship was carrying armored vehicles to Libya, a violation of the arms embargo on Libya the United Nations had imposed.
In October, Commodore Stylianos Dimopoulos of the Hellenic Navy took over the Command Authority of Operation IRINI operating in the Central Mediterranean from the Italian Rear Admiral Fabrizio Rutteri.
For the second time in less than three months, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2292 (2016), it has had to seize a cargo ship.
EU🇪🇺 Operation #EUNAVFORMED #IRINI seized illegal cargo in breach of the UN🇺🇳 #ArmsEmbargo on #Libya.
Dozens of vehicles modified for military use were discovered during an inspection of 🚢 MV MEERDIJK.
Read more:➡️ https://t.co/hgymEFw2Td pic.twitter.com/7qs2YCh5cj
— Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI (@EUNAVFOR_MED) November 9, 2022
Cargo was on its way to Libya
One of the European military vessels operating in the Central Mediterranean Sea as part of Operation IRINI spotted the cargo ship on its way to Libya. Upon Operation IRINI’s request, the Netherlands gave their permission for the inspection. A boarding party then boarded the vessel on 11 October.
When they did so, they discovered dozens of military vehicles. Given the arms embargo, it was clearly what the U.N. considered to be a breach.
Upon the company’s order, the vehicles were seized and the ship repeatedly towed to the harbour of Almyros in Volos in the Greek mainland. No reports have officially confirmed such a claim, however.
Operation IRINI’s mission
Since 2020, world powers, international and regional organizations and representatives of Mediterranean countries committed to a peaceful solution to the Libyan conflict. It has been going on since 2011.
The conflict is responsible for one of the biggest humanitarian and military crisis in the world. During the January 2021 Berlin conference, world leaders therefore agreed on the necessity to effectively implement the UN arms embargo on Libya.
In order to deliver this outcome, the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union decided on the 17th of February to launch a new CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) Operation in the Mediterranean.
Operation Eunavfor Med Irini
The Operation, named EUNAVFOR MED IRINI (Greek word for “peace”), was thus launched on 31 March 2020 and extended to 31 march 2023. Its core task is the implementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya through using aerial, satellite and maritime assets.
In particular, the mission has been mandated to carry out inspections of vessels off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2292 (2016).
Operation IRINI also monitors and gathers information on illicit exports from Libya of petroleum, crude oil and refined petroleum products. What is more, it contributes to the capacity building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, the disruption of the business model of human smuggling and the trafficking networks through information gathering and patrolling by planes.
In its two and half years of activity, Operation Irini has investigated more than 7,298 ships. It has also conducted almost 385 visits (so-called Friendly Approaches) onboard merchant vessels, including twenty-four inspections.