Swiss-flagged ship said to have carried arms to Saudi Arabia

The arms may have been destined for the conflict in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has also carried out airstrikes. Keystone

A cargo ship belonging to the Swiss merchant navy has reportedly transported heavy weapons to Saudi Arabia.

This content was published on December 8, 2019 - 13:05

According to the SonntagsBlick newspaper, the "Thorco Basilisk" declared to Turkish port authorities in the Bosphorus on June 30, 2019 that it was carrying in its cargo "weapons cartridges and explosive device detonators". 

The paper cites among its sources a Turkish ship observer, Yoruk Isik, who photographed the ship as it passed through the strait that day and tweeted about its arms cargo. Sonntagsblick says data from the ship’s radar show that it had left Burgas in Bulgaria on June 28 and then travelled through the Suez Canal to Saudi Arabia. 

Although the nature of the arms is not “completely clear”,  Sonntagsblick cites the “Arms WatchExternal link” blog as reporting that a Serbian arms company delivered thousands of mortar shells to the Saudi army during those days. 

Both Turkish expert Isik and Arms Watch investigative journalists believe that the weapons were destined for the conflict in Yemen, the paper says. 

The Fribourg-based Massoel group, which owns the ship, told Sonntagsblick that its contract with the chartering company explicitly bans arms transport, and that it has opened an inquiry. 

The 27 ships of the Swiss merchant navy belong to private owners, but are overseen by the Swiss government. Sonntagsblick quotes a foreign ministry spokeswoman as saying that while cargo inspections are carried out to ensure environmental and safety standards, “we do not keep any official records on the cargo of Swiss ocean-going vessels”. 

The paper also puts this in the context of the merchant navy’s financial difficulties, which it says are costing the taxpayer millions in subsidies.

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