Ship cancels stop in Spain over claims about Israel-bound cargo

Minister denies claims by left-wing politicians that vessel carrying armament to he used in Gaza offensive

A cargo vessel has chosen not to dock in Spain after left-wing politicians in the country said it was supplying weapons to Israel.

The Borkum, a German vessel sailing under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, cancelled a scheduled stop at the southern Mediterranean port of Cartagena following a political dispute over its cargo’s destination.

Politicians from the leftist Podemos and Sumar parties said it was carrying armament due to be used by Israel in its offensive against Hamas and that it should be inspected on arrival.

Podemos leader Ione Belarra said the Borkum was “suspected of carrying weapons to Israel for genocide”. Sumar, the junior partner in the Socialist-led government, called for state prosecutors to investigate the final destination of the cargo.


A pro-Palestinian organisation, Rescop, had flagged the Borkum’s imminent arrival in Spain, claiming that documents showed it was carrying 12.5 tons of missiles, as well as explosives and other material, all heading for the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Socialist transport minister Óscar Puente contradicted this information, saying that part of the cargo of the vessel was due to be delivered to a company in southern Spain, while the military materials making up the rest were due to continue to Slovenia, before being delivered to the Czech government.

“I don’t understand the controversy which has been stirred up,” said Mr Puente before the boat cancelled its stop in Cartagena. He said that those claiming it was heading to Israel may have misidentified the vessel and were guilty of being “deeply irresponsible”.

He hit back at suggestions, by Podemos and Sumar, that even if the cargo did go to the Czech Republic, it would end up in Israeli hands.

“In this country, the vast majority of people support the Palestinian cause and the Spanish government is unequivocally with the Palestinian cause,” said Mr Puente. “If there were a vessel carrying weapons and if we had some kind of proof – not unfounded suspicions — that the cargo was heading for Israel, then the Spanish government would, without a doubt, stop it.”

On Thursday, the government did just that, denying permission to dock to another vessel, the Marianne Danica, sailing under the Danish flag, because it was carrying armament from India to Haifa in Israel.

“The Middle East doesn’t need more weapons, it needs more peace,” said foreign minister José Manuel Albares, as he explained the decision, which was the first time Spain had refused entry to a vessel for this reason.

The Spanish and Irish governments have been in discussions to recognise the state of Palestine, with reports suggesting they could make an announcement, possibly with other countries, as soon as next week.

While the Spanish government has condemned the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel, it has been outspoken about its disapproval of Israel’s response, causing tensions between the two countries.

Earlier this month minister for social and consumer affairs Pablo Bustinduy wrote to Spanish companies in Israel calling on them to avoid contributing to the “genocide” being suffered by Palestinians. The Israeli embassy said the move “encourages Hamas”.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain