On 18 May 2019, images and videos appeared on social networks showing a Moldavan-flagged ship delivering armoured vehicles in Tripoli Port. From that starting point, this OSINT investigation demonstrates the following:
- A clear violation of the arms embargo on Libya by Turkey through the shipping of a large number of armoured military vehicles made by BMC Otomotiv Sanayi ve Ticaret AS
- A logistics operation used to ship these vehicle by sea using a shipping company specialised in fruit and vegetable transportation.
- A study of the shipping company reveals the fleet is involved in arms trafficking for other armed groups, allegedly including the security company Wagner.
This study builds on the compelling evidence already presented in a UN Security Council panel of Experts 2019 annual report:
Establishing the delivery of a large volume of Turkish tactical military equipment in Libya
Several videos and photos quickly circulated on social networks and pro-GNA Telegram accounts on May 18th. They help us chrono-geolocate the event at Tripoli Port, identify the equipment, estimate quantities and identify the vessel transporting them.
Chrono-geolocating the shipment
By using satellite imagery from Sentinel Hub Explorer on the 05/18/2019 we can see a large vessel docked at Tripoli Port. While this image is low resolution, Ben Strick (@bendobrown) has since posted a better quality image. We can see a large number of vehicles on the deck, counting at least 6 rows of 6 tactical vehicles – 36 in total – while reports on social networks suggest 80 were delivered.
Identifying the equipment
Information on the type of armoured vehicles can be easily gathered thanks to a catalogue uploaded online by the Turkish government to promote its defense industry. Comparing the different models to the images published online leads us to conclude the vehicles are the Kirpi model made by BMC.
On its website BMC even promote the Kirpi model as super resistant. It is worth noting the company has its manufacturing plant located in Izmir…
According to its Wikipedia page, the company is one of the largest manufacturers of armoured tactical vehicles in the Turkish defense industry. Established in 1964, its shareholding is majority Turkish (51%) with an investment from the Industrial Committee of Qatar Armed Forces since 2014.
Identifying the recipients
On social networks, pro-GNA accounts published photos of the vehicles being delivered, allowing us to confirm from start to finish the violation by Turkey of the arms embargo. By supporting and supplying a side in the Libyan conflict, OSINT techniques can demonstrate how Turkey contributes to aggravating the conflict and undermining political stabilization efforts.
Identifying the vessel
Videos and photos show the boat’s name Amazon, IMO 7702657. The vessel can carry the equivalent of 450 cars with a net tonnage of 450. It can ship big volumes.
With a Moldovan flag at the time of deliveries in Libya, Moldova has since revoked its pavilion (flag). The ship changed to a Togolese flag, then to a Mongolian flag with the new name Nadezhda.
Searching on Equasis allows us to trace Nadezhda’s ownership. Before 2019 and its change of names and pavilion, AMAZON belonged to Maya RORO SA and has AKDENIZ RORO DENIZ TASIMA listed as commercial manager.
A journey including the collection of the Turkish tactical vehicles at their manufacturing site
By using MarineTraffic’s data, it is possible to trace the journey of AMAZON from Samsun Port to Tripoli Port.
It is interesting to note the vessel starts its journey on May 9th 2019 empty and get loaded at Izmir Port during a 13 hours stop-over. Not surprising as Izmir is the city where a BMC Otomotiv factory is establish to manufacture vehicles.
On Facebook we also manage to find some of the Amazon crew members by looking for the ship photos. By clicking on this man’s profile we understand he is a sailor and has been navigating on this boat since 2018. Looking at who likes his photos and who appears on some ship photos we can identify additional members of the sea crew.
Exploring some of the crew profiles it is possible to identify one crew member who seems to have travelled to Libya, posting a picture on May 18th 2019 with the comment “Libia forever”.
A shipping company transporting more than just fruit and vegetable
Based on Equasis database, AMAZON belongs to the MAYA RORO company at the time of the vehicle delivery in Libya. Located at Kat 4, Ataturk Bulvari 140, Kale Mah, Ilkadim, 55030 Samsun, Turkey, this is actually the same address as the entity Akdeniz Roro Deniz Tasimaciligi Turizm Sanayi ve Ticaret Ltd Sti. After additional online research on the company, it appears to be linked as a subsidiary to Kalyoncu group (articles here and here). A video published on Kalyoncu group Youtube account in 2015 showcases its shipping activities, displaying images of AKDENIZ RORO and AMAZON vessel.
On its Linkedin page and its website, KALYONCU group introduces itself as a company created in 1993 by the Kalyoncu family and specialized in fruit and vegetable export. Later on, the company developed a fresh product shipping capacity and offers this service worldwide.
In addition to fruit and vegetable deliveries and Turkish arms shipment to Libya, it appears Kalyoncu has experience in transporting military equipment…
Until 2019 its subsidiary, ADKENIZ RORO, owned a fleet of other vessels, including the boat URAL (IMO 7725386), which have all been since transferred then to a new entity called ALESTA RORO GEMI ACENTELIGI (still at the same address…). In 2018, URAL vessel was stopped at Sfax Port in Tunisia by local customs for inspection. They discovered Russian vehicles and military equipment on board, allegedly destined for the security company Wagner…