Merchant Marine Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and Hellenic Coast Guard chief Dimitris Bantias on Monday visited the island of Rhodes to oversee the inspection of a Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship which was intercepted near Symi last Thursday amid reports that its cargo comprised some 20,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles that may have been destined for Syria.
Coast guard officials on Monday started inspecting dozens of containers aboard the vessel, and reportedly found ammunition, in keeping with the corresponding documents. However the authenticity of the documents was doubtful and officials said crew members had offered “contradictory” accounts regarding the ship’s destination.
The captain of the Nour M, a Turkish national, denied that the vessel was carrying any illegal weapons, claiming that its cargo was destined for Libya’s Defense Ministry after being loaded in Ukraine, Turkey’s Dogan News Agency reported.
According to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency, the ports of Tartus in Syria and Tripoli in Libya were both declared as destination ports for the Nour M to marine traffic authorities. Complicating matters, the Turkish captain is said to have told officials that the ship had stopped at the Turkish port of Iskenderun to pick up a load of fresh water.
One scenario being examined by the coast guard is the possibility that the intended recipient of the arms had been Syrian opposition forces.
The Nour M has been linked to drug trafficking in the past and has changed its name several times, according to the AMNA.