Published: 11:39, 06 February 2020
| Updated: 16:50, 06 February 2020
A Saudi cargo ship believed to be carrying weapons which could be used in the Yemen war visited Kent yesterday - despite objections from protesters.
The Bahri Yanbu ended up in Sheerness after plans to dock at Antwerp were abandoned when campaigners calling themselves "citizen weapons inspectors" set up a checkpoint to halt any flow of arms.
The protesters also called on the British authorities to refuse permission for the 26,000-tonne ship to dock in the UK because the Gulf kingdom is still embroiled in the war in Yemen.
The container vessel had originally been expected to berth at Tilbury yesterday (Wednesday) morning but remained anchored a few miles off the coast of Sheppey as campaigners mounted a last-ditch attempt to prevent it from landing.
According to The Guardian, the law firm Leigh Day, which is representing Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), wrote to UK government lawyers to clarify whether the ship’s business was in line with an export ban on British arms to Saudi Arabia which could be used in the Yemen war.
Ship tracking app MarineTraffic.com showed the ship eventually docked at Sheerness yesterday evening before sailing at 11.39pm for Cherbourg, France, where it was due to arrive at 4pm this afternoon.
Andrew Smith, of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: "This ship should never have been allowed to dock in the UK.
"The Saudi Arabian regime is one of the most brutal and oppressive in the world. Any arms on board could be used to enable atrocities against Saudi people or in the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen.
"That is why this ship should have been turned away.
"If the UK government wants to help people in Saudi Arabia or Yemen then it must stop the arms sales and send its support for the brutal Saudi dictatorship."
Britain is a major supplier to Saudi Arabia having licensed at least £5.3bn worth of arms since 2015.
Peel Ports, which operates Sheerness Docks, refused to comment.
Bahri, the state-owned shipping company that owns the Yanbu, confirmed to Belgian media that military equipment was onboard but denied it was to take on any such kit at Antwerp.
The Guardian said the ship had travelled from North America where it docked in the USA and Canada before travelling to Europe and Saudi Arabia.
It is meant to stop in Cherbourg and Genoa, where a dockworkers’ strike is planned.