Taking a quick look around the maritime context of what is going on in Venezuela:
- Military operations
- Humanitarian aid
The first to note is the long-standing US military presence in the Caribbean, under the framework of fighting the drugs trade, (US Navy and USCG mainly with supporting air assets). This is under the remit of SOUTHCOM who “ready for anything in Venezuela”
I am not going to dwell too much on this US military aspect, other to say that any possible US naval force would be spearheaded by the USS Abraham Lincoln, (CVN 72) currently off the US east coast along with numerous destroyers in the Atlantic Ocean. It has been there training on and off (COMPTUEX and JTFEX) for several weeks now, prior to scheduled deployment to the Mediterranean and Gulf regions.
More details on military aspects in forthcoming article.
US military are regular visitors to the regions but have become understandably more noticeable of late to digital plane spotters, these include cargo, helicopters, but of particular interest are the USAF RC 135 off the Venezuelan coast and USN P-8s operations in the region.
I want to highlight this tweet, because it fits into something intriguing. As reported by BBC Mundo, US humanitarian aid has also been despatched by sea. The location of the USAF RC-135 is active in an area, at a time when the US-backed ex-Offshore Supply Ship (OSV), now regional RO-RO cargo ship was heading trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela.
One another Venezuelan ‘aid ship’ left Puerto Rico, the ‘Midnight Dream’, while the MSM also mentions another ‘aid ship’ off / in Curaçao. The cargo from the ‘Midnight Dream’ was offloaded in Costa Rica to be flown out to Curaçao. (Sidenote: Did any plane spotter pick up this flight? No apparently, although there were tweets on the aircraft registration N999YV as seen in the article below, as tweeted by Steffan here?). The authorities there blocked the cargo from being loaded onto the ship, the Vanuatu-flagged ‘Midnight Stone’ on security grounds. (Note to self Why the sudden rush to transfer the cargo as reported by the BBC)
A well-coordinated plan is being rolled out on all fronts, with the timing of the ‘aid’ concert led by Richard Branson, as an important element to draw the focus of the MSM. A series of potential flashpoints on the terrestrial and maritime borders is being readied and prepared. Thus, the potential to trigger a maritime confrontation is seemingly increasing. Another tripwire in the arsenal of projects being implemented by the state and private backers of Guaido or a publicity stunt?
The latest headline to be projected into the public glare is: “Venezuela navy threatened to open fire on US-financed aid ship”. It is a sure way to probe the Venezuelan naval forces and deceiving way to portray the idea of a navy / coastguard that monitoring territorial waters is interpreted as threatening US interests. Neither of the Ro-Ro ships are US-flagged or operated.
Journalists onboard the 'Midnight Stone' tweeted about the ship receiving threats to sink them from the Venezuelan navy. Did anyone onboard have the presence of mind to record the VHF radio conversations between them and the frigate that shadowed them? A video of the incident? No, nada.
Video in Spanish relates the situation onboard and reiterates the lack of VHF communications from the Venezuelan Navy. So we have to take the word of those onboard for the time being. It is clear from the video that the Venezuelan Navy kept their distance from the 'Midnight Stone', remaining in international waters with a frigate 5 nautical miles, the 'Almirante Brion' (F 22), inside Venezuelan waters and a patrol boat 2 nautical miles away. The Puerto Rico governor reasserted that the Navy ship threatened to "open fire". The 'Midnight Stone' subsequently returned to Bonaire according to the journalists. AIS shows the ship in Curaçao once more.
"Los militares no responden a las comunicaciones por radio que se hacen desde el carguero."
So how did the crew and reporters on the 'Midnight Stone' know that they got threatened? The Telemundo PR report shows no video of a patrol ship approaching, but only long distance video still of a naval patrol boat. Additionally, the TV interview only report what one person saw and heard. No radio conversations recordings, no video of the alleged confrontation. Yet there were several journalists including BBC Mundo onboard at this crucial moment.
Here’s a tweet from a Puerto Rican journalist onboard and another from a BBC Mundo reporter also onboard. (Errr.. there’s no aid onboard the ‘Midnight Dream’ apparently according to another BBC Mundo article):
So this leaves with the ship with the cargo in Bonaire trying to get to Puerto Cabello as the ‘Midnight Stone”.
Smoke and mirrors.. With some journalists still tweeting about the ship aid with photo of the 'Midnight Dream' on the 23rd February.
Ship sent from Puerto Rico … #BarcoPuertoRico is the tending hashtag, actually sailed from Curaçao (or not?)… called 'Midnight Stone’ and also called ‘Midnight Dream’ by media and journalists. Are you still following? Quite ironical really the first ship is indeed BarcoPuertoRico because it is actually there. Yet, the press release from the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, is rather telling as it implies the ship sailed from Puerto Rico to Venezuela with aid ( when it hadn't):
(Puerto Rico has its own lingering humanitarian problems to deal with resulting from a certain catastrophic and deadly hurricane ‘Maria’ but hey… best to be seen sending aid to elsewhere for political regime-change reasons). Toilet paper anyone?
Not surprises to see today on social media calls for the US Navy to ‘protect’ such vessels delivering aid to Venezuela. (Where have we seen this before, the US using a ship as a bait as a pretext for starting military intervention?).
EDIT: update on the 'Midnight Stone' attempt to enter Venezuelan sovereign waters is outlined in Spanish HERE. Part of this thread is a letter signed by Guaido providing details on the ship's name, IMO number and EZ shipping as the ship operator. This confirms the deceptive spin in operation, as Guaido himself twitted about the departure of 'Midnight Dream' from Puerto Rico on the 20th February. Guaido signed a letter authorising EZ Shipping's 'Maritime Stone' to go to Venezuela on the 11th of February. Puerto Rico's official from the US State Department gave EZ Shipping authorisation to sail from Puerto Rico with official support on the 19th February.
EZ Shipping, listed as operating out of Tortuga, British Virgin Island, is the operator of another ship, the 'Midnight Coast' as well as the 'Midnight Dream'. The company provides feeder shipping services in coordination with US-based Crowley Maritime and has several ships working around the Caribbean. Sidenote: There is also an EZ logistics and shipping Corp, with an address in Maimi, Florida. Info on what seems to be the shipping charter parter appeared on Twitter for just 3 shipping containers. Videos and photos show the ship with more than just 3 containers on deck.
What is interesting about this class of ships is that there several of them, old ships (therefore expendable I note a tad sardonically), same matching company livery, with easy roll-on roll-off capability, requiring little port infrastructure and only needing shallow ports too. Handy.
The Vanuatu-flagged ‘Midnight Dream” made recent port calls to the British Virgin Islands (BVI) port Road Town, which just happens to be where Necker Island is, Sir Richard Branson's private island paradise. Its latest reported position on twitter is in Guayanila, in Puerto Rico. Yet MarineTraffic has it as being in BVI. You couldn't make this up really.
The 'Midnight Stone' was last seen on AIS, at anchor on 21 Feb. The screenshot shows the 'Midnight Coast' and the 'Midnight Chief' in proximity. This makes for interesting group of ships operated by the same company. Business as usual in the British Virgin Islands.
Handy to have a fleet of similar coloured ships floating around the Caribbean. Confusing and this is part of the plan in my opinion.
To sum up: one heck of a PR deception spin action going on under our noses, with too many journalists being stenographers, not even bothered to contemplate looking into this story in any detail. In other words: "Wag the Dog" again with the US government approval.
Blog entry will be update periodically. To be continued.