The closure of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has delayed the launch of Gaza Ark, an improvised cargo ship built by Gaza fishermen set to sail to Europe in protest against the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Member of the Gaza Strip association of fishermen Mahfouth Kabariti said Sunday that the Gaza Ark was supposed to set sail by the end of 2013, but as a result of the closure of Rafah crossing, the launch has been delayed to spring 2014.
He noted that in order to be seaworthy, the Gaza Ark still needed international standard navigation equipment that could only be brought into Gaza via the Rafah crossing.
Kabariti added that several donors had supported the idea of Gaza Ark and that many countries were willing to allow it to enter their harbors.
The vessel, he said, will be 24 meters long and 7 meters wide and will carry 15 people including solidarity activists in addition to goods.
“It will be the first vessel to carry Gaza’s products to the outside world serving Palestinian producers and developing the culture of building boats which has almost vanished as a result of Israel’s ongoing closure of sea industry in Gaza.”
The ark is one in a series of global efforts designed to challenge Israel’s 7-year long blockade of the Gaza Strip. While numerous boats have attempted to sail into Gaza, the Gaza Ark is the first attempt by Palestinians to break out by sea.
If they are successful, this will be the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.