Russia stepping back in m/v Alaed incident
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 -
2:18:00 AM -
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As of morning June 20, still no trace of m/v Alaed, and no confirmed news on vessel’s latest movements, but most probably, vessel turned back, as Britain's Foreign Secretary said on Tuesday. Today may be decisive for the whole story, as now decisions are made by Russian authorities, not by ship owner, (who's a pawn actually, in this situation) and maybe Russian authorities will be sensible enough to step back and return vessel under the pretext of insurance withdrawal, or just without any pretext, as long as Russia doesn't officially recognize Alaed incident as related to Russia. Legally Russia may send to Syria whatever she wants, but Western countries vowed to ban arms coming to Syria, and both parties are adamant in pursuing their will, so situation actually, may lead to a serious conflict.
If Western navies try to intercept the vessel even just for checking cargo, it will be the violation of the international law, because Russia is not bound to any sanctions against Bassar al Assad regime. The Alaed incident then, revealed a serious flaw in international laws, when a State may act against the will and intentions of nearly all international community, but stay legal, nevertheless.
It’s not for Russia to complain on illegal hampering Russia’s trade and on double standards Western countries practice, because, just for one reason, the legitimacy of Russia’s ruling regime is dubious to say the least, but still, any action against m/v Alaed is a violation of international laws and Russia’s rights.
I’m thrilled when I read Western or Russian media articles on Russia’s interests in Syria, or Iran, or anywhere else, I found them very funny. More often, than not (in most cases, if you ask me), the things they call Russian interests are a far cry from real interests of the nation, and Russian authorities make decisions with very serious consequences, inspired not by true needs, but by petty corporate or individual interests.
One example. Several years ago Russian Customs implemented a new regulation, demanding all the scrap collected in Russian Far East ports for export, to be transported to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy port for a clearing. Petropavlovsk was made the only Far East port authorized for scrap customs clearing. There are three port in Russian Far East connected by rail with the rest of the country and capable of accumulating scrap from vast territories of Far East and Siberia, these ports are Vladivostok, Nakhodka (Vostochniy) and Vanino. Naturally, they were the only ports to handle export scrap. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy is four thousand miles away. Scrap has to be carried to Petropavlovsk, has to be offloaded from vessels, and then loaded again as “cleared” and ready for export. All the scrap goes to China, Korea and Japan. Russian authorities added extra 8 thousand miles to export routes. Why? Because there is only one Steel Mill in Russian Far East, in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and that Mill (AmurStal) produces steel only from scrap, it was built in Soviet era as such, as the main processor of Siberian scrap. AmurStal can’t pay the prices Asian neighbours offer, and the Mill was in a chronic state of crisis. Stocks of AmurStal were bought by an individual, close to Putin. That person worked out a plan to make scrap export non-profitable, and pushed a new regulation, which actually, is an economic sabotage of national proportions. Scrap is one of the main export items of Russian Far East ports and ship owners, and the whole business was badly damaged. I wrote an article then, published by one of the leading Russian opposite periodicals, Novaya Gazeta, but to no avail, and scrap still has to be cleared through Petropavlovsk. So much for the interests of Mother Russia.
The same “national interests” may stay behind Russian stubborn support of Assad regime in Syria. Maybe there are person or persons with vast personal interests in arms trading or something else, and the fall of Assad will be a big financial loss for some people in high places. Even Kremlin and Government insiders more often, than not, find themselves at a loss, when trying to explain this or that Russian political move or law making. Russia lacks a mechanism which secures the pursuit of long-term national interests, making the policy transparent and politicians responsible, and is ruled by a bunch of minions concerned with their personal profit and power.
What happened to MV Alaed and few questions to Mikhail - ( by Alexander)
Sry Mikhail, I usually read your Bulletin as a source of insight infmation, since the general media and all other sources dominate by rums, hear-says, and cheap judgements.
You should not rest to criticizing Putin's regime Putin's stubbn suppt of Assad's regime because this criticism can be found elsewhere, and you actually loosing your reputation by doing so: your criticism may be valid, and I even may share some (if not most) of your political views, but this is irrelevant in understanding what happened to MV Alaed. Keep yourself to the highest professional marks and you well have great influence.
Today I read FEMCO's own press release which discloses http://www.femco.ru/uploads/files/alaed_pr_eng.pdf
and it dispels many rums, as well as sheds the light on the procedures of the shipping business perfmed by this ship and this company. Generally it looks like not just moving cargo from pt A to pt B, but rather a complicated and optimized series of operations perfmed during the same voyage.
Personally, after reading multiple sources I actually skeptical that its cargo a is helicopters. It may be something else. At first, because this is a very exotic way of shipping helicopters: they are usually flown, not transpted by ship. They are too bulky, but at the same time too light, so a ship like that can take very few of them. In contrast, Il-76 can transpt 2 Mi-17s, and An-124 can do 4, I think. Geographically, assuming that they were refurbished at facty, it means either Kazan Ulan-Ude. At first they have to be flown to St. Peterburg (transpting them to Kaliningrad can be done via St. Peterburg as well because Lituania usually does not let military cargo transferred through its territy, especially undisclosed). It is obviously much easier to transpt then to Novossisk even fly directly to Syria via Iranian airspace (Iran is in good terms with both Russia and Syria).
Secondly, and this is actually question to YOU as a professional: WHO SPECIFICALLY, besides shipping company itself and customs, KNOWS what is the nature of cargo when the ship leaves pt?
Does the ship operat have to disclose what is the nature of cargo F EACH VOYAGE? the insurance policy specifies the certain types of cargo in a blanket way, and whenever the operat enter is about to enter a contract to ship something beyond these types, he must notify the insurer?
What is the basis f cancellation of Insurance Coverage? The delicate issue I see here is that MV Alaed was already two days into its voyage after leaving Kaliningrad when the insurance was cancelled. The question is why at that moment? Say, if the operat notified the insurer just befe leaving pt, and insurer disagrees, the the policy should be cancelled immediately and the ship would not leave, the cargo in question will be left in pt after negotiations with insurance company. In sht, a good detailed description of the standard maritime LEGAL practices would be very useful.
Speculatively, I believe that cancellation of insurance instantly prevents FEMCO and Alaed from doing their usual business shipping cargo of opptunity between what ever pts are on the way. The ship goes back to pt because nothing else can be done in this situation. If, on the other hand, the purpose of this voyage was solely to ship helicopters and, perhaps, other military cargo directly from St. Peterburg and Kaliningrad to Tartus, Syria without going to any other pt, then I do not see why cancellation of the insurance is an issue: if needed to be refueled, the ship can take fuel in Tartus and return back to Kaliningrad. Insurance is not legally required in international waters, Syria will not refuse the ship. I do not know exactly whether it is required to go through the Straight of Gibraltar, but intuitively it is considered "international". Any comment here?
Overall, superficially it appears that US Dept. of State knows way too much: basically they appear to know about INTENT where the ship is going to go BEFE it leavers pt. This may have three possible explanations:
1. There is a "me" (CIA agent) insight Russian Government/Navy/Rosobonexpt and FSB does not do its job.
2. US State Dept knows it through other parties, say insurance companies feign ship owners because the infmation about the cargo must be disclosed to them by the operat (this obviously does not apply to Russian military ships). But in its turn, it questions the choices made by Rosopbonexpt in ing this shipping company.
3. US State Dept gets it from Russian MID via diplomatic channels (basically they are discussing the situation in Syria all the time, which is understandable, right?), but then Sec. Clinton bends and twists this infmation in public perfming very impressive PR stunts pretending that she has "credible intelligence infmation" (her own wds).
And, finally, there is fourth possibility which quite opposite to the first three:
4. State Sec. Clinton does not actually know the nature of MV Alaed's cargo, and their intelligence is limited to be much less than they pretend to know, but they simply ed a random ship going approximately in that direction with histy of past voyages into/around the relevant area, and simply alleged that it caries weapons and helicopters without actually knowing it, but knowing that the ship will not be inspected to disprove the myth because the current maritime procedures and customs nmally do not do so. So the ship is fced to go back to pt by cancellation its insurance, and Sec. Clinton can say that it was because of weapons onboard, and nobody is there to oppose her.