TamilNet, Saturday, 24 October 2009, 07:58 GMT]
Government of Sri Lanka which had turned away the Mercy Mission ship, ‘Captain Ali’, loaded with relief items donated by expatriate Tamils in Europe to help Tamils caught up in the war in Vanni in June has now, after purposely delaying for nearly five months, released 27 containers of the total 88 to the ICRC in Colombo Thursday, sources in Colombo said. Subsequently, the entire cargo was released and ICRC had to obtain a certificate from the Sri Lanka Standards Institute as most of the goods were nearing expiry dates, the sources added.
Mercy Mission ship, “Captain Ali” set sail from Fos-Sur-Mer, France on the 2nd leg of the mission, carrying approximately 884 metric tons of food, medicine, and other essential humanitarian relief items destined for the Tamil civilians in the Vanni area of Northern Sri Lanka displaced by the war began the 1st leg of its journey from the Port of Ipswich, UK on 20 April 2009.
Government of Sri Lanka turned away the ship after keeping the ship under Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) custody for nearly 4.5 days, admitted on 8 June that the ship carried purely humanitarian supplies.
On 27 June, the Mercy Mission ship had been at sea for 51 days being refused permission to dock in Colombo harbour in the port despite Indian government’s readiness to have the cargo offloaded by Indian Red Cross.
On 28 July, Sri Lankan port authorities in Colombo still refused to hand over the humanitarian supplies, stating that the Indian authorities were yet to produce necessary documents including the Bill of Lading, according to Sri Lankan Red Cross officials in Colombo.
Meanwhile, customs authorities in Colombo said though the government has waved off the import duty, the Sri Lankan Red Cross has to pay demurrage for harbouring the cargo in the port.
On Thursday the entire cargo was released to ICRC after Presidential Secretariat consented to pay two million rupees as demurrage, the sources added.