The U.S. Navy’s USS Elrod relieved the USS Stout of its escort duties for the Morning Glory tanker ship on March 19, Army Col. Steven Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, told Pentagon reporters on Friday.
The Navy initially took control of the commercial tanker in international waters by request of the governments of Libya and Cyprus following its seizure earlier this month by three armed Libyans.
The Morning Glory, according to a DOD statement, is carrying cargo of oil owned by the Libyan government National Oil Company, and was illicitly obtained from the Libyan port of As-Sidra.
Warren said 34 sailors from the USS Elrod are aboard the Morning Glory and all USS Stout personnel have departed the ship.
“We’re going to hand over the Morning Glory to Libyan naval authorities within the next day or two in international waters just outside of the territorial water line,” he said.
Everything will be turned over to the government of Libya, Warren noted, including the three Libyans, the entire 21-member organic crew of the Morning Glory, the ship and all of its contents.
The change of escorts was for administrative reasons, Warren said. The USS Stout is assigned to the U.S. European Command area of operations, while the USS Elrod has the U.S. Africa Command area of operations.
The USS Elrod, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, is homeported in Norfolk, Va., and deployed Jan. 14 to the 6th Fleet area of operations.
Press Release, March 24, 2014, Image: US Navy