The Swedish government is holding a Turkish owned cargo ship loaded with explosives and rockets bound for the Middle East, with experts voicing concerns it could be an explosion risk.
Turkish-owned, Panama-flagged Whiskey Trio has been detained by the Swedish transport authority over the “unseaworthy” condition of the ship an the poor environment for the crew, which have been described as unhygienic. Denouncing the condition of the freighter, the transportation workers union press release described the craft as “a rusty ship with poverty wages”.
Another called it the “worst ship” he had “ever inspected”.
The major concern over the elderly ship is the cargo, which includes “tonnes” of explosives, rockets and ammunition in 13 containers bound for an unconfirmed port in the Middle East, possibly in Yemen or Oman by way of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Montenegro. Investigators have discovered bare 380-volt cables and other ignition risks, and an explosives expert has said if the cargo went up, it could take out the whole harbour town of Varberg together with its 30,000 inhabitants.
The ship was due to unload some of these in Sweden, but port authorities got to it first. The ship had called at a number of other European ports before being intercepted in Sweden, and the last call had been in Sheerness in the United Kingdom.
Speaking to Aftonbladet, former research director at the Swedish Defence Research Agency ‘Bo’ Janzon said the ship was an enormous risk. Even though exactly what has been found on the decrepit ship has not been revealed by Swedish security forces the expert told the paper even if it was just regular domestic fireworks, that an ignition could be devastating.
This seems an unlikely, best case scenario, as Swedish paper Hallands Nyheter reports “reliable sources” the explosives on-board are military-grade.
Outlining the worst case scenario, Mr. Janzon said if the cargo was handled incorrectly it could take out the whole port town. Concerning for the inhabitants of Varburg, Western Sweden, one of the citations the Swedish ports authority detained the ship on was “significant safety discrepancies”.
Fire protection systems on-board were found to be insufficient and the containers were found to be improperly stowed, meaning on rough seas they could work their way loose and dangerously smash inside the ship.
The ship could now be impounded for months while the Swedish authorities attempts to work with the owner and flag-state to get the craft into a suitable condition to sail again — with or without the deadly cargo.
There is precedent for munitions ships like the Whiskey Trio exploding when improperly handled, causing enormous destruction. One of the most infamous cases is that of the SS Mont-Blanc, which exploded in 1917 killing over 2,000 in Canada.
The French cargo ship, packed with munitions produced in North America to supply the Allies in the Great War collided in port with another craft, setting a fire and eventually causing the ship to blow up. Exploding with the force of nearly 3 kilotons of TNT, the blast remains known as the largest non-nuclear man-made explosion.
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