The Tale about an Arms Smuggling Ship from Burgas to Garacad Port in the Puntland State of Somalia
Maritime-OSINT & HUMINT Intelligence
This is the first publication
The facts presented in this report leave no doubt about the unusual activity in the maritime space of the Somalian coast, especially when it involves a small cargo ship that obscures its identity under an unusual flag and arrives from Burgas, Bulgaria while attempting to conceal its port of origin.
The information obtained through HUMINT sheds light on the situation and connects the dots, contributing to the presentation of the facts.
There have always been arms smuggling shipments to Somalia, and as time goes by, with the ongoing campaign in Las Anod, the arms shipments will also increase from more distant destinations, not only from Iran and Yemen.
Somalia has already received variants of MG/ PKM machine guns and RPG PG-7V projectile weapons.
In this article, I provided my HUMINT-Based report about a new shipment from Burgas, Bulgaria to Puntland.
According to the Equasis platform the SINO P, IMO 8501062 is owned by a Turkish company called DUSOR LOJISTIK VE DIS TICARET & managed by a Jordanian company called EAST SHIPPING LINES LTD.
SINO P-General Cargo Ship, IMO 8501062 Arrived at Evropa port, Burgas on February 02, 2023, and departed on February 09, at 13:38 UTC.
It was spotted on Sentinel 2 on February 09, 09:18 UTC just a few hours before it departed:
According to 2 sources, this ship arrived at the Garacad Port with arms from Burgas, Bulgaria.
“In the lower deck, there were crates containing 300 Bulgarian RPG PG-7V and 100 Bulgarian MG-1M Machine guns.
The contents were unloaded on the night of March 9, 2023, by local-type militia boats when the ship was at the Garacad anchor.
The crew has nothing with this content”.
Ship of Interest: On February 11th 04:00Z, Togo flag cargo vessel Sinop transited Bosphorus towards south en route from Burgas. @egetulca pic.twitter.com/x7SExlAzv2
— Yörük Işık (@YorukIsik) March 11, 2023
Information has been verified with a third source that accompanied the ship since it departed from the Port of Evropa, Burgas, Bulgaria.
SINO P was tracked by @Yörük Işık on his Twitter channel, crossing the Bosporus on February 11, 2023, on her way to Derince, Turkey where she was loaded with 18 containers to Somalian ports.
Although it was noted during port calls that the Port of Berbera in Somaliland was the destination, this is a false destination since the ship has never stopped in Berbera. Instead, it docked at Garacad anchor on the same date and time:
The ship was detected on March 09 at 02:28 UTC using the Sentinel 1 SAR detection method while anchored at Garacad with AIS OFF. Analysis of the size and length of visible objects in space using the VH-decibel gamma0 detection method revealed the presence of at least two additional vessels adjacent to SINO P, confirming the information we received.
The ship was spotted on Sentinel 2 on March 12 at 07:17 UTC at the Garacad Port, Somalia.
And this is the evidence as posted on Social Media about her entry to the Garacad Port on March 11, 2023.
Verification for the 18 containers that were loaded in Derince, Turkey can be seen in the photos.
The contents are logistics for the Garacad port which were ordered by some Garacad business firms.
Though Somalia was never listed in this ship’s port calls, it is not the first time that this ship has arrived at the Garacad port. During research on its past tracks, it was found that the ship had been in Garacad at least twice in 2022, even before this port became functional.
In addition to this, on September 27, 2022, SINO P was involved in the transfer of the logistics shipment from the U.A.E to the Emirates new military base near Alula in North Puntland, of course, AIS was OFF.
However, Somalia was never listed in this ship’s port calls and any direct info about Burgas port was not provided eighter on the ship’s port calls.
Based on the provided report, which includes the method of operation, background of the General cargo ship SINO P, the unusual use of a small length ship for a long-distance shipment, the history of hiding port entries, and the fact that the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) was turned OFF immediately when it arrived at the Garacad anchor while AIS was ON during all its route, the fact that its draught was laden, 4.6 m (Maximum draught 4.4m), just reinforces the idea of abnormal cargo loaded into the belly of the ship.
Of course, we should also include the satellite image as evidence of STS activity on the night of March 09, 2023.
The use of the Togolese flag on Turkish ownership and Jordanian management, combined with these facts, makes it highly likely that the ship was involved in an illicit action, such as arms smuggling to the Somalian coast.
From my point of view, the information about this particular shipment is classified as reliable, based on two local sources and one source that accompanied the ship SINO P since it departed from Burgas, with Bulgaria being the third arms smuggler for Puntland, Somalia, and Burgas port in particular.
HUMINT-Based information suggests that on the lower deck of the ship, there were crates containing 300 Bulgarian RPG PG-7V and 100 Bulgarian MG-1M Machine guns, which were unloaded on the night of March 9, 2023, by local-type militia boats when the ship was at the Garacad anchor. The crew had nothing to do with the content.
Author’s note I: The identity of the orderer is unknown, apparently, arms supply for the benefit of the SSC forces fighting in Las Anod, Somaliland.
Author’s note II: About the crew involvement, this shipment reminds me of the arms smuggling from Iran to Nigeria in 2010 by the French-based shipping group CMA CGM.
You can read about it here.
From my point of view, there is no way that such a smuggling operation went unnoticed by the ship’s crew.
Author’s note III: For those wondering about the timing of the news publication, sometimes in HUMINT-Intelligence, it’s not possible to share information in real-time in order not to compromise the sources. This depends on how many people are aware of the information.
The first rule in HUMINT: Maintaining the confidentiality of the source is critical.
Discretion is key in HUMINT.
For the safety of the sources, I avoid revealing photos.
Credits & Thanks:
@Yörük Işık for his SINO P’s video crossing the Bosporus.
@WarNoir for his outstanding worldwide weapon archive and weapon identification and verification knowledge.
Vessel’s photos/ Tracking: Marine Traffic/ Vessel Finder platforms.
Satellite images: Sentinel 1/2 EO.
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