NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 11 – The controversial MV Faina carrying military weapons from Ukraine is expected to dock at the port of Mombasa at noon on Thursday, officials said.,
Kenya’s Military Spokesman Bogita Ongeri told Capital News that the Belize-flagged ship will be received by top military officials led by Defense Minister Yusuf Hajji.
“We will all be there to receive it. The ship is carrying our cargo and whoever is in doubt should join us there,” Mr Ongeri said in apparent reference of the controversy the ship sparked four months ago when some diplomats in the region claimed the arms were destined for Southern Sudan.
“The Minister will be there so will other senior officials and the press has been allowed to witness the arrival because we have nothing to hide,” he said when reached on telephone.
Other reports indicated that a Ukrainian delegation including representatives of the Presidential Secretariat and the Foreign Intelligence Service was expected in Mombasa to receive the Faina.
In a statement, Ukrainian President’s Press Secretary Iryna Vannikova said the delegation onboard a special Presidential jet took off from Boryspil airport on Wednesday morning and was expected to land in Mombasa.
The Ukrainian Press Secretary said the MV Faina was nearing Kenyan territorial waters and would be received by a Kenyan Naval Forces ship which would reinforce the American escort as the vessel heads to dock at the port of Mombasa.
“The Ukrainian delegation is headed by deputy President’s Chief of Staff Andriy Honcharuk and head of the Foreign Intelligence Service Mykola Malomuzh,” the statement said.
Other reports indicated that representatives of the ship owner have already arrived in Mombasa.
The Ukrainian vessel freed by Somali pirates last week has a crew of 20 and cargo of 33 Soviet-like era battle tanks as well as other weaponry which the Kenyan government has claimed ownership.
It has been on the controls of Somali pirates for 134 days and was only released last Thursday after payment of ransom by the ship owners.
According to sources close to the negotiations that led to the Faina’s release, it did not have enough fuel to reach the Kenyan port and needed to refuel before it could resume its journey to its initial destination.
The Ukrainian presidency and leaders of the Somali hijackers announced the vessel’s release early Thursday but a last-minute disagreement over the sharing of the ransom reportedly delayed the Faina’s full release by a few hours.
The final release was eventually confirmed late Thursday by the US navy, which said it had "maintained a 24-hour, 7-day a week presence within visual range of the ship" since it was seized in the Indian Ocean on September 25.
The Bahrain-based US naval forces central command also said in its statement that the US navy was "expected to provide humanitarian assistance to the ship and her crew."
The Faina’s captain died of what appeared to be a heart attack two days after the vessel was captured and the remaining crew of 17 Ukrainians, two Russians and one Latvian were kept hostage in difficult conditions, with limited food supplies.
Kenya says the shipment is destined for its armed forces but there have been claims that the government of South Sudan was the real final recipient.