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Mebo off  Libya - History

Legal action involving former the Radio North Sea International (RNI) ship Mebo II continued in Holland throughout 1975. Mebo Ltd. were pursuing a claim in the Dutch courts for repayment of harbour fees incurred while their two ships, Angela and Mebo II had been forcibly detained during 1974/75.

By the end of January 1976 the ships were free to leave Holland and had reportedly been sold to an un-named African country. Mebo Ltd. had lost a significant amount of money (then 3 million Dutch Guilders) as a result of the ships being detained in Holland and more in legal expenses for the various court cases - money which Edwin Bollier wanted to reclaim from the Dutch Government. Although former RNI engineers Bob Noakes and Robin Adcroft (Banks) had been retained by Mebo Ltd. to accompany the two ships on their expected voyage to the Mediterranean this claim through the courts further delayed the departure of the ships, which had originally been planned for 15th August 1976.

In November 1976 both ships were dry docked once again to be cleaned and re-painted. During this time two 10Kw transmitters from the former Radio Veronica ship, Norderney, (then in Amsterdam) were loaded on  board Angela, prompting an investigation by the Dutch Post Office (PTT) with a consequent further delay to the ship's departure.

Finally in January 1977 the Dutch authorities issued a statement saying:- "The Attorney General at the Court of Justice in The Hague declares that the confiscation of the Mebo II has been cancelled and that the Mebo II and the Angela, with existing transmitting apparatus therein, can leave the Netherlands with due observation of the Customs control."

Following this announcement both ships were given engine trials in harbour and on 14th January, after inspections by Customs officials they left the de Groot van Vliet shipyard and sailed into Rotterdam to take on supplies.

While docking in Rotterdam the Mebo II collided with another ship causing damage and the authorities immediately placed a detention order on the radio ship, fearing she would leave port without paying for the damage. However, the costs were met by Mebo Ltd. and on 16th January 1977 both vessels left Holland, sailing south towards a new destination and a new role in the Mediterranean which was to be unlike anything ever experienced by an offshore radio station before or since.

Both ships had Dutch Captains and engineers on board but the marine crew were mainly from the Cape Verde Islands. Also on board the Mebo II was ex-RNI engineer and DJ, Robin Adcroft (Robin Banks).

After the two vessels had sailed under the bridges of Rotterdam they were tied to the Parkkade Pier to have supplies loaded for their forthcoming voyage to a destination which at that time remained a mystery. Whilst tied up the Mebo II struck another ship, the West German vessel Estebrugge, which in turn shunted into two other ships causing £3,000 worth of damage. The owners of the Estebrugge insisted that the Mebo II be detained until repair work had been completed and paid for.

Once repair work to the damaged ships had either been completed or covered by insurance guarantees both the Mebo II and the Angela finally sailed from Parkkade on 26th January 1977. The two ships dropped anchor in international waters for the night before setting off on their voyage to Tripoli, Libya. Bad weather slowed the journey and after calling at Ceuta, a Spanish harbour in Morocco on 1st February 1977 to take on fresh supplies of food, fuel and water both ships eventually arrived off Tripoli on 9th February. However, it was not until five days later that they were allowed to enter Tripoli Harbour when the Libyan authorities had satisfied themselves that the vessel's  registration documents were in order. At this time, too, the crew were all paid off, although radio engineer Robin Adcroft remained on board the Mebo II.

During February and March 1977 a number of test transmissions were made by Robin Adcroft from Tripoli Harbour. These transmissions took place generally between 8.00pm and 11.00pm local time and consisted of records and announcements, but there were no station identifications. Later some tests were also made using the ex-Radio Veronica 10Kw transmitter which had been installed on the Mebo II, (the other ex-Radio Veronica transmitter was at that time stored as cargo on the Angela).

These test transmissions had to be halted after a few weeks because it was discovered that they were causing interference to local communications facilities in the Tripoli area. A further series of test transmissions from the Mebo II began on 2nd May 1977 on shortwave , medium wave and FM. Again the tests were presented by Robin Adcroft and consisted largely of music and announcements, but this time knowing that some European offshore radio enthusiasts would probably be listening on shortwave, the occasional RNI jingle was inserted between records. At the top of each hour the former RNI theme, "Man of Action" was also played.

On 19th May 1977 test transmissions also started in the 31m shortwave band, making a total of four transmitters broadcasting simultaneously from the Mebo II - the first time that had happened in over three years. Unfortunately because of interference from a powerful Russian station the use of the 31m shortwave band frequency had to be abandoned in mid-June.

By 29th June 1977 the transmitters on the Mebo II were being used to relay the  English language programmes of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah Broadcasting Corporation (SPLAJBC), which was itself transmitting from Tripoli. These relays, which were arranged by Robin Adcroft on instructions from Mebo Director Edwin Bollier in Switzerland, were thought to have been for the benefit of Libyan Embassies throughout the world. However, no feedback was received from this potential audience and the broadcasts from Mebo II stopped after about two weeks.

On 8th August both the Mebo II and the Angela sailed from Tripoli Harbour arriving three days later, first at Benghazi and finally at Derna Harbour - 600 miles from Tripoli and close to the Egyptian border. As relations between the two countries had become strained it is thought the main reason for the move was to jam Egyptian radio services broadcasting on 773kHz. However, although this was effective locally in Benghazi it had little effect farther afield because of the high power used by the Egyptian station.

Transmissions under the call sign LBJ - Libyan Post-Revolution Broadcasting were made using the 10Kw former Radio Veronica transmitter. The main 100Kw transmitter on the Mebo II was ready to be used, but at the last moment the Libyan authorities instructed the radio engineers that it must not be turned on.

At this stage programmes consisted of music, with no propaganda or information, and continued for about five hours each night, half of that time being live programmes presented by Robin Adcroft and the remainder pre-recorded taped programmes. Gradually the FM and shortwave transmitters on board the Mebo II were also brought into use during the test broadcasts, but towards the end of October 1977 a problem developed in the medium wave aerial. The Mebo II then left Derna on 30th October 1977 for a new anchorage off Benghazi.

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Mebo II off Tripoli in 1977

Photo: Robin Adcroft

Thanks to the late Robin Adcroft who provided  additional information about the Mebo II’s time off Libya

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