CMA CGM: Weapons shipment marked as lentils
French liner carrier CMA CGM said Wednesday a shipment of illegal arms that Israeli commandos found aboard one of its chartered containerships Tuesday in the Mediterranean, was marked on the manifest as lentils.
The line said in a statement it 'does not tolerate the false declaration of goods which could undermine the (CMA CGM) Group's image and reputation, and will continue to collaborate closely with the national and international security services to actively fight against any transport of illegal cargoes.'
On Tuesday Israel Defense Forces intercepted the Liberian-flagged 1,678-TEU Victoria, which CMA CGM charters from German ship owner Peter Dohle, en route from Turkey to the Port of Alexandria in Egypt. Israel said it found a cache of illegal arms aboard the vessel, and contends that Iran is behind the shipment, saying the weapons were bound for militants in the Gaza Strip. The vessel called in the Syrian port of Lattakia before stopping in Turkey.
'CMA CGM is taking the issue regarding their vessel, Victoria, very seriously,' the line said. 'CMA CGM transports close to nine million containers every year around the world and has an extremely strict policy regarding the respect of national and international ship security and transported cargo regulations.'
The statement said CMA CGM was misled by a falsified cargo manifest.
'It is important to know that when a person or business wishes to send cargo via a container, the shipping company provides the container and the shipper loads it with their cargo and seals it and, by this act, the shipper is therefore responsible for the cargo declared on the bill of landing,' CMA CGM said. 'Once the container is ready, it enters the transport chain to be taken onboard the ship, where it is locked and sealed and can only be opened by a customs officer.
'Regarding the Victoria, the containers were identified and the manifest shows that the sender declared the cargo to be 'lentils.' If it is confirmed that the cargo loaded happens to be illegal and of a different nature to the manifest, the group will give its full assistance to tracking down and bringing the persons responsible to justice.'
Israeli media outlets reported the weapons shipment, which included anti-ship missiles, was hidden by lentils and cotton. The ship was released from the Israeli port of Ashdod on Wednesday after Israeli forces removed three containers.