Spain Bars Cargo Ship Accused of Carrying Explosives to Israel

Marianne Danica
Marianne Danica is being blocked from Spain on accusation it is carrying explosive to Israel (2017 photo by Yoruk Isik of Twitter)

Published May 17, 2024 12:58 PM by The Maritime Executive


Spanish authorities are saying that for the first time, they refused entry for a cargo ship believed to be carrying explosives to Israel. The move came after days of bitter infighting and accusations by activist groups that singled out another vessel demanding it be blocked from Spanish ports.

The Foreign Ministry this morning reported that a Danish-owned vessel, the Marianne Danica (2,200 dwt) had been denied its request for permits both to transit Spanish waters and to make a port call in Cartagena. Jose Manuel Albares announced the decision while on a visit to the United States saying it was part of Spain’s position to deny support for the war in Gaza. Reports are of infighting within the Spanish government over possibly arms ships passing through Spain to Israel.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reports the vessel is transporting 27 tonnes of explosives. A small general cargo ship (72 meters / 236 feet) the ship departed Chennai, India, and made a stop in the Cape Verde Islands before the scheduled stop in Cartagena on May 21. Reports said the final destination is the Israeli port of Ashdod. 

The situation started earlier this week when activists identified the Borkum (5,489 dwt) as the target of their protests. The ship which is owned by German interests and registered in Antigua and Barbuda asked for a permit to make a port call in Cartagena with the activists calling for a denial accusing the ship of transporting arms to Israel.

Transportation Minister Oscar Puente took to social media announcing that the government ministry had checked the vessel’s documentation saying they were in order and the ship’s declared destination was Koper, Slovenia. He further posted online excerpts of documents he said they received from the Czech government attesting to being the final destination of the vessel. 

The Palestinian activist supporters however accused the documents of being forged saying they did not have a government letterhead. They continued to contend the vessel was bound for Israel while Puente responded saying they were providing no proof. He reposted reports saying the vessel was carrying Soviet-era arms that Israel does not use and the Czech government statements that the arms aboard the Borkum were for its defense. 

He also highlighted that the vessel had already touched Spanish soil during a port call at Las Palmas on May 12. Furthermore, he said it had received customs clearance and a check found the papers to be in order.

The vessel anchored off Cartagena further causing protests from the activists who asserted they would be going to the port on Thursday to stage demonstrations and investigate. Puente angrily responded “You waste your time,” saying the vessel was not scheduled to dock till Friday. However, late on Thursday, the owner withdrew the request for docking privileges, and the vessel was reported departing for Slovenia where it is due on May 22.

In the meantime, the Danish owners of the vessel that was blocked contend it is not accurate and that their ship will be proceeding as planned. The Marianne Danica’s AIS signal shows the vessel off West Africa heading for the Strait of Gibraltar.