Tripoli, Libya: 600 Americans Stranded Aboard – UPDATE – 300 Leave on Ferry

Posted on February 24, 2011

UPDATE:  (25 February 2011) Number of passengers varies but various news outlets are reporting today that the ferry has departed for Malta with about 300 American nationals on board.  High seas may slow the passage but ETA at Malta is estimated at 9:00 PM local time.

The ferry has landed at Malta.  It has been reported that a second ferry will be traveling to Tripoli.  The ferry carries 600 and there was a lot of space left over.  [CNN]____________________________________________________________

(24 February 2011) The US in weighing its options in freeing a ferry loaded with 600 Americans that has been prevented by storms and high winds from departure from Libya for 2 days.  Now there is talk the vessel could be detained until Friday at the earliest. Shouts of “Get us the hell out of here” were heard ringing out from on board.

German Ferry "Maria Dolores" awaits clearance to evacuate Americans. A second ferry has arrived to increase the number of Americans being evacuated.

Americans who eagerly climbed aboard the Maria Dolores ferry at Tripoli’s As-shahab port on Wednesday faced a long delay in their travel plans. Strong winds have been whipping up high waves in the Mediterranean Sea, and the 600-passenger catamaran ferry was not likely to leave for Malta until Friday at the earliest, ferry officials said.

“Citizens are safe on board. It will leave when the weather permits,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a tweet. The voyage takes up to eight hours.

A spokesman for the American Embassy said provisions are aboard the ferry, one of two now in Libya, that can evacuate a total of 1,000 people.

In London, the British government was holding an emergency meeting to decide whether the military needs to evacuate almost 200 U.K. oil workers and their colleagues from other countries. Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC radio the panel would discuss evacuation options with Defense Secretary Liam Fox. []

The Libyan government has forbidden the US from landing a plane to evacuate their nationals.  The aircraft and boats of others nations have come and gone without incident. Even German military aircraft were allowed to land without incident. China was able to evacuate 4,500 Chinese workers using Greek ferries to take them to Crete where aircraft would then take them home.  It will be the largest evacuation ever for the Chinese.

It is eye-opening to see how many nationals from which countries were in Libya.  It appears the Chinese had the largest contingent.  And therein may be the cause of the President’s delay in speaking out.  The influence of the Chinese over  our foreign and domestic policy has been demonstrated on this blog.  It is possible that Obama was not as concerned with getting several hundred Americans out as he was about following Chinese guidelines so that 15,ooo Chinese nationals could be safely rescued.