Saturday 25 March 2017

Abandoned ship to set sail with Gaza aid

Isabel Hurley

A ship abandoned and arrested in Dundalk last year is to begin a new life as a beacon of hope for the people of Gaza, bringing humanitarian aid to the area.

The 42-year-old ship was sold at auction yesterday for €70,000 to the Free Gaza Movement.

The German-built MV Linda, formerly owned by the now-defunct company Forestry Shipping of Riga, Latvia, was detained by the High Court at the request of the International Transport Federation (ITF).

Crew members are still owed over €40,000 in unpaid wages and that issue is now expected to be addressed.

She was abandoned in Dundalk last July with just one day's food supply left while SIPTU and the ITF helped to repatriate its stricken Ukrainian crew.

Yesterday, she was sold under the hammer by Cork auctioneer Dominic J Daly before a packed auction room in Dundalk's Crowne Plaza Hotel in a High Court Admiralty sale.

The 2,800-tonne cargo ship was sold to Derek Graham of the Free Gaza Movement.

Mr Graham told the Irish Independent: "We're so delighted to get her. I was afraid we weren't going to; it was a very close thing.'' He outlined how they were aiming to stock her with humanitarian aid from Ireland for Gaza, with her first trip taking place at the end of April. The vessel was robbed of around €15,000 worth of radio equipment in recent weeks.

Alone

"We are doing this to show the people of Gaza that they are not alone. There's nothing going into Gaza, no aid. We are prepared to run the blockade to try and get aid in. We have done it before. Out of eight previous attempts, five were successful. We hope to go with a full cargo from Ireland at the end of the month,'' he said.

Gaza campaigner Caoimhe Butterly added: "We are looking to bring cement, medicine and educational resources. We are hoping that everyone in Ireland will support our campaign to buy a bag of Quinn's Cement in aid of Gaza. There are no building supplies out there. We will be going as part of an international flotilla of aid ships from Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Sweden and Malaysia.''

Tribute was paid by the Free Gaza Movement to both SIPTU and the ITF for their assistance.

ITF Inspector Ken Fleming highlighted the many labour and human rights abuses that can take place in the shipping business, including crews trapped on board ships without pay, with only dog food to eat and enduring violence. Each year, 1,500 seafarers go missing worldwide.

More information about the Gaza campaign can be obtained at www.freegaza.org.

Irish Independent

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