BEIRUT – A judge ordered the seizure of a cargo ship anchored in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, carrying 5,000 tons of flour reportedly stolen from Ukraine on Friday.
The Laodicea is a Syrian ship that is subject to US sanctions. The cargo is owned by Loyal Agro, a Turkish grain trading company that said it had presented Lebanese customs with papers proving the cargo’s legitimacy.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Beirut, on the other hand, stated that the ship was “carrying 5,000 tons of barley and 5,000 tons of wheat that we suspect was stolen from Ukrainian warehouses.” Following an investigation, a Ukrainian judge granted a decision to detain the vessel and cargo.
According to a Loyal Agro representative, the cargo was originally scheduled for Syria, but the company decided to discharge 5,000 tons of wheat in Lebanon due to bread shortages there. He said that flour might fetch up to $650 per ton in Lebanon, compared to $600 in Syria.
This week, furious masses flooded Lebanon’s bakeries, in a country where almost half of the population is food insecure.
Lebanon used to import the majority of its wheat from Ukraine, but shipments have been halted as a result of Russia’s invasion and blockade of the main Black Sea ports.
Lebanon’s temporary environment minister, Nasser Yassin, stated, “Lebanon follows international laws.” The ship, which is reported to have been hijacked from Ukraine and is parked in Tripoli, has not been unloaded.”
He stated that the incident was being investigated by Lebanon’s ministers of economy and public works.
Some Lebanese commentators believe that certain parties would use Lebanon’s economic and political upheaval to smuggle products into Syria and avoid US sanctions, especially after reports that the Laodicea belonged to the Syrian General Directorate of Ports.
According to a source at Lebanon’s Economy Ministry, “importing wheat or flour from abroad does not require the ministry’s clearance unless it is subsidized by the central bank.”
“Aside from that, private enterprises and mills are permitted to import wheat or flour as long as Lebanese customs checks the authenticity of the importation.”
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, stated that officials had yet to “establish the source of the flour and barley cargo carried by the ship.”
He stated that Lebanon had “got a number of complaints and warnings from a number of Western countries” following the ship’s docking.
The fresh maritime dispute comes only a week before Lebanon commemorates the second anniversary of the Beirut port blast on August 4.
Source: Arab News