NAPLES--(ENEWSPF)--2 May 2011. NATO mine-countermeasures ships are sweeping the approaches to Misrata harbour. This is to provide the greatest possible protection after pro-Qadhafi forces in four small boats dropped three mines in the vicinity of the harbour on Friday. This was a clear attempt to cut off traffic going in and out of the harbour, most of which was transporting aid to Libyan citizens.
The mines were initially identified by NATO assets without the specialized equipment required to deal with them. The mines are small and hard to detect but can do serious damage to shipping. Two were moored to the seabed and were later destroyed, but a third mine drifted free before specialized ships could arrive. NATO mine hunters are now working to locate and destroy this mine and to scan the area for any further possible threats. The Misrata port authority makes the decision whether to close the port and it is up to mariners to decide whether they want to approach. NATO continues to communicate with inbound shipping on a regular basis, consistently exchanging information to keep approaching vessels fully informed.
NATO has also published a Notice to Mariners informing them of the dangerous situation created by the Qadhafi regime’s illegal and irresponsible action. Over the weekend, at least two vessels left the harbour and one humanitarian vessel entered the port and was able to safely unload its cargo before leaving.