Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Americans Are Leaving Libya by Ferry

Updated 5:20 p.m. est

U.S. citizens already aboard a ferry in Tripoli today hoping to flee to safety on the Mediterranean island of Malta will remain overnight in Libya because of concerns over nasty weather, the State Department announced a short while ago.

"The ferry departure from Libya to Malta is delayed due to high seas. Citizens are safe on board. It will leave when the weather permits,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on Twitter.

"The ferry capacity is roughly 575 people. On board as we speak are U.S. private citizens, roughly 35 members of the embassy delegation, including nonessential official personnel and family members who are departing as part of the ordered departure that we made on Sunday," Crowley said. "We are also taking on third-country nationals and supporting other countries whose personnel and citizens are also trying to depart."

Libyan government officials and security forces are at the As-shahab port in Tripoli, handling passports and other documentation procedures, he said.

"The Libyans have actually been cooperative today. You know, some of their procedures are just taking a fair amount of time: Verifying passports, stamping passports, doing the accounting," Crowley said.

"The system is creaking along. We're satisfied with the Libyan support today," he added.

The ferry when possible will depart for Valletta, Malta. The voyage is expected  to take about six hours, but choppy seas may extend the trip, Crowley said.

The Libyans granted permission for the U.S.-sponsored ferry to dock and board passengers after declining to allow chartered flights to evacuate Americans.

"That was the first option we presented to the Libyan government. We still would like to have permission to bring charters in for any additional Americans who want to leave. We hope that that permission will be granted," Crowley said.

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