MERLE held hostage with all hands, victim of Libyan power games

April 1, 2017 at 07:27 by Mikhail Voytenko in Maritime Security

I received a letter from a relative of one of Russian freighter MERLE’s Russian crew, asking for help or advise. Vessel was seized by Libyan Coast Guard on Mar 5, taken to Tripoli, and until now, remains seized. There are no news on what’s going on, and no connections with the crew. Russian media covered the story for several days, then went off it, MERLE is as good by now, as missing. No news from anyone. Understood, vessel was seized by forces of UN-backed Presidential Council led by Fayez al-Sarraj. Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar is fighting Tripoli for his control of Libya. Khalifa Haftar is backed by Russia, in January he visited a Russian aircraft carrier off the coast of Tobruk from where he held a video conference with Russian defence minister.
So most probably, MERLE was seized by Tripoli-based government in an attempt to get more bargaining chips in this game of powers, which may be used in standoff with Russia. For all I know, Kremlin doesn’t give a damn, Tripoli may sink freighter with all hands, Kremlin won’t move a finger to prevent it, but will gladly unleash propaganda campaign, justifying Kremlin getting a foothold in Libya, and its’ support of Khalifa Haftar. That guy Khalifa Haftar is the guy, whose forces seized car carrier MORNING COMPASS with more than 5000 Korean cars on board, in February this year. The problem is, Kremlin doesn’t care for its’ own people, when it comes to geopolitics, and, more important, to oil prices. Russia is playing dirty games in Middle East more out of hope to raise oil prices, than of anything else.
MERLE is still in Tripoli, AIS seems to be offline since Mar 13.
Previous MERLE news:
https://www.fleetmon.com/maritime-news/2017/17499/russian-freighter-merle-seized-libyan-militants-in/
Voytenko Mikhail
April 01 2017

MERLE held hostage with all hands, victim of Libyan power games