US looking for ship to move arms to Israel
Stefano Ambrogi | Reuters
LONDON: The United States is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tons of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.
The US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as “ammunition” on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.
A “hazardous material” designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators, but no other details were given.
“Shipping 3,000-odd tons of ammunition in one go is a lot,” one broker said, on condition of anonymity.
“This (kind of request) is pretty rare and we haven’t seen much of it quoted in the market over the years,” he added.
The US Defense Department had no immediate comment.
The MSC transports armor and military supplies for the US armed forces aboard its own fleet, but regularly hires merchant ships if logistics so require.
The request for the ship was made on Dec. 31, with the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than Jan. 25 and the second at the end of the month.
The tender for the vessel follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December from the United States to Israel ahead of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.
A German shipping firm, which won that tender, confirmed the order but declined to comment further.
A senior military analyst in London who declined to be named said that, because of the timing, the shipments could be “irregular” and linked to the Gaza offensive.
The ship hired by the MSC in December was for a much larger cargo of arms, tender documents showed. That stipulated a ship to be chartered for 42 days capable of carrying 989 standard 20-foot containers from Sunny Point, North Carolina to Ashdod.