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Protests as Saudi arms ship docks in Essex

Activists from Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) staged a banner drop today to protest the arrival of the Saudi Arabian arms ship the Bahri Yanbu at Tilbury docks in Essex.

Cargo company Bahri is the “exclusive logistics provider” for the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defence – its five year contract with the Saudi Arabian MOD was renewed for a further year in October 2019. While the Bahri Yanbu’s current cargo is shrowded in secrecy, the ship has a history of transporting arms from the US to Saudi Arabia. According to data analysis by Amnesty International, since the war in Yemen began in 2015, the Bahri Yanbu has transferred close to US$360 million worth of military and dual-use equipment from the USA to Saudi Arabia.

After stops in the USA and Canada (where it is believed to have loaded weapons), the cargo ship is due to visit five European ports before continuing its onward voyage to Saudi Arabia. A scheduled stop in Antwerp was already cancelled following action by Belgian NGOs.

Campaigners claim that, in facilitating the vessel’s journey, the UK and other European states are in violation of Arms Trade Treaty, which prohibits the transfer of weapons for use in war crimes. CAAT also fear that the Bahri Yanbu is collecting further UK-made military equipment at Tilbury. Despite CAAT’s successful legal challenge, which saw the Court of Appeal rule that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen are unlawful, weapons exports may continue under licences issued before the judgment. These could include components for combat aircraft and bombs used in the conflict.

Protests are expected at every stop of the Bahri Yanbu’s journey across Europe, including a dockworker’s strike in Genoa where unions have repeatedly voiced their opposition to handling ‘hot cargo’ destined for the war in Yemen.

Photo Credit: CAAT

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