InformNapalm international volunteer intelligence community got on the trail of a secret cargo which was shipped from Syria to Crimea under very mysterious circumstances. It was unloaded at destination by Russian military personnel with utmost care and heightened security. This publication is a result of OSINT and HUMINT activity of our volunteer community.
On October 20, 2016 about 1:00 p.m. the cargo ship Nadalina sailing under the flag of Sierra Leone called at the port of Feodosia (occupied Crimea). The vessel arrived from Tartus (Syria), after a call to the Romanian Port of Navodari.
The unloading of the vessel started only about two days later; it was carried out on the night of October 21 to 22, 2016, from 10:00 p.m. to 02:00 a.m. It was performed by military servicemen using a port crane under heightened security. All the bystanders were cleared out, and the pier was cordoned off by extended police squads and gray men. The illumination was directed away from the pier, so the unloading process was poorly visible. The vessel floodlight periodically switched off when portions of the cargo were lifted up, instead of being on permanently, as it usually is the case during unloading.
The unloaded cargo was in crates oblong 0.5 x 1 x 3 m, of khaki color that looked like non-flammable composite containers for storage and transportation of special-purpose products.
The screenshot of the video depicting the arrival of Nadalina in Feodosia clearly shows the bulb raised above the waterline, which indicates that the vessel was underloaded.
The unloading of one crate took 25-30 minutes. In total, 8-10 crates were unloaded. The crates were unloaded slowly, with great care; apparently, the “longshoremen” were very apprehensive of the cargo being damaged.
After the night unloading, the vessel remained at the port until October 25, and then it sailed towards Kerch. However, in the morning of October 26 still en-route, it backtracked to Feodosia, and started out for the return trip, presumably in the direction of the Bosporus.
The operator and owner of Nadalina (IMO:8215754) is an offshore company, Bia Shipping Co Ltd. (the Marshall Islands, 2010), headquartered in Constanța (Romania). This company is a part of a family business of Syrian entrepreneurs coming from the outskirts of Tartus. Bia Shipping Co. is an official partner of Johar Shipping srl. registered in Constanța (Romania) and controlled by the a Syrian family http://johar.ro/. Its owner is Hassan Johar, born in 1981. The members of Johar’s family live in Syria, Romania and the UK.
Despite the fact that Johar is not the official owner of Bia Shipping Co Ltd, he actually controls the company and is entitled to sign for it. Three key positions at the company are occupied by Adnan Hassan (Managing Director), Johar Hassan (Head of Operational Department) and Ferhad Hassan (Ship Chandler).
Apparently, the recent repair work on Nadalina in Navodari is also connected with the transportation of this cargo. This is another indirect indicator of the importance of this cargo, as any technical risks during the delivery had to be mitigated to the maximum extent.
The utmost care of the unloading operation points to an extremely hazardous character of the cargo, whereas its timing indicates a special effort taken to hide the fact of delivery.
The analysis of the peculiarities of the cargo delivery and unloading suggests the following possible considerations:
- The cargo was delivered from Tartus. It is unlikely that a civil vessel would be chartered for the covert carriage of conventional ammunition from Syria to the territory occupied by Russia. Such ammunition would have been handed over to the Syrian government forces or kept in the territory of the Russian base in Syria. This implies that Russians had to remove from the Syrian territory some type of ammunition or its components that are not supposed to be located in this territory, cannot be safely stored due to inability to provide safe storage, cannot be used, but require special technologies and facilities for disposal, have political significance and implicate the Russian Federation or the Damascus regime, in the event these weapons are found in Syria. The small size of the cargo delivered (8-10 crates) is also an essential detail pointing to the importance of the contents.
- The cargo was delivered to Feodosia, not to Sevastopol, where it would be more logical to deliver military cargoes. Choosing the port of unloading was probably determined by further routing or destination of the cargo. Near the port of Feodosia there is “Feodosia-13” facility that is best suited as a potential storage site for extremely hazardous cargoes.
- The cargo was delivered by means of a third-party company, not by the Russian Navy ships regularly calling at Tartus. The choice of a private company can be explained by an attempt to hide the link of the cargo to the Russian Federation, as well as to reduce the risk to the crew of a naval ship.
- The cargo was delivered by sea, not by air (which would have been much faster and less visible). The choice of the sea route shows that it was too dangerous to carry by air. Furthermore, if the aim was to deliver the cargo to Feodosia rather than anywhere else, the plane would have attracted more attention and required additional efforts to arrange an overland transportation between the storage facilities and the airports.
The analysis of the size and shape of the unloaded containers gives reason to suggest that they contained ammunition with at least 200 mm caliber. Despite the absence of direct evidence, the analysis of indirect features lets us assume that the contents of the shipment are ammunition/components of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – most likely, chemical weapons.
The picture to the New York Times article published in 2015 shows a similar-sized crate used for the storage of Iraqi missiles (Borak-70) with a chemical warhead.
Conclusions: there is no reliable and direct evidence, that we have witnessed a delivery from Syria of WMD components/ammunition rather than anything else. However, our analysis of the information indicates the following:
- regular violations of the sanctions regime with regard to the occupied Crimea by the ships of Hassan Johar’s affiliated companies;
- an involvement of Hassan Johar’s companies in arms smuggling and delivery of illegal migrants from Syria and Turkey to Europe;
- relations of Hassan Johar’s companies with the Syrian intelligence agencies (or authorities) and the Russian intelligence agencies;
- there is indirect evidence of carriage of WMD from Syria to the occupied Crimea.
This investigation was prepared by Dmytro K, Anatolii Baronin и Kateryna Yaresko for InformNapalm volunteer intelligence community. An active link to the authors and our project is obligatory for any reprint or further use of the material.
Translated by Victoria Batarchuk
Edited by Artem Velichko