A British company said Tuesday it had cancelled insurance for a Russian-operated ship it said was carrying munitions to Syria _ a shipment the British government says included refurbished military helicopters.
U.K.-based insurer Standard Club said in a statement that it had been made aware that a Russian ship, MV Alaed _ currently off the Scottish coast _ was carrying munitions destined for Syria, in clear breach of its rules.
"We consequently informed the ship owner that their insurance cover ceased automatically in view of the nature of the voyage," it said in a statement.
Britain's Foreign Office confirmed it was aware that a ship carrying a consignment of refurbished Russian-made attack helicopters was heading to Syria. It said Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that all defense shipments to Syria must stop.
"We are working closely with international partners to ensure that we are doing all we can to stop the Syrian regime's ability to slaughter civilians being reinforced through assistance from other countries," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
The vessel's Russian operator, Femco, refused to comment Tuesday.
Britain has joined the United States and other countries in pressing Russia to halt arms shipments to President Bashar Assad's regime. But maritime experts said the cancellation of the ship's insurance would not necessarily affect its journey.
"Normally it's difficult to trade at a port without insurance cover, but in this case, we are seeing a Russian ship going to a sanctioned country (Syria) that is going to let it in," said James Baker, news editor at maritime newsletter Lloyd's List. Continued...