Libyan military seize Italian tug at Tripoli port; Italy prepared to free crew
Libyan military officials on Sunday boarded an Italian tugboat docked at Tripoli’s port and threatened to suspend its communications in an apparent seizure, ship owner said, as U.S. and European airstrikes enforced a no-fly zone over Libya.
Italian officials warned they would do whatever was necessary to free the crew of the “Asso 22,” which includes eight Italians, two Indians and Ukrainian. The tug was involved in servicing oil platforms off the Tripoli coast.
The ship owner, Naples-based Augusta Offshore SrL, said Tripoli port officials had boarded the vessel Friday and Saturday, asking to see and photograph its equipment, with some spending the night on board.
On Sunday morning, armed Libyan military officers boarded and threatened to suspend communications between the ship and Augusta Offshore officials, the company said in a statement, according to the LaPress news agency.
The tug left the port later Sunday, heading northwest, the company said, adding that the crew was fine. Italy’s foreign minister said it appeared to be heading to an oil platform, presumably with Libyan officials still on board.
Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa told state-run RAI television Sunday that Italy was prepared to evacuate the crew “with every possible means.”
Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the situation was fluid and confusing, but that he couldn’t exclude that it amounted to a seizure. He said Eni, Italy’s oil and gas giant which has significant interests in Libya, had rented the tug for use at oil platforms off the coast.
“Now they’re taking it to the base of an Eni refinery,” Frattini said. “We don’t know what their intentions are, but we obviously can’t exclude that we’re dealing with a seizure, given that it’s still a confused situation.”
He said Italy had asked Turkey, which is now representing Italian interests in Libya following the closure of Italy’s embassy, to intervene with Libyan authorities.
Rebocador ASSO 22 a rebocar SAIPEM 7000