A foundation that carries humanitarian aid to Tripoli will be filing an official complaint with Nato after the military alliance ordered the vessel to stop for long inspections on three occasions.

Foreign doctors on the Al Entisar missed their flights back home from Malta because of Nato checks

“They should know us. We’ve gone to Libya 45 times and never carried anything other than humanitarian aid... We get permission from Nato before we leave but they have now stopped us three times for long inspections,” said Munir Attiga from the I Go Aid Foundation, which is coordinating the shipment of aid aboard the Al Entisar.

Over the past few weeks, a Spanish Nato ship stopped the Al Entisar for inspection on August 26, September 10 and again yesterday.

Yesterday’s inspection took place when the fishing vessel was on its way back to Malta after delivering tonnes of food, water and medicine to Tripoli.

The vessel has also helped with the evacuation of people from Libya and regularly ferries doctors there.

Mr Attiga said such inspections delayed the ship by over five hours and disrupted plans and cost money.

“We had aid waiting to be loaded and had to put it back in storage. Foreign doctors on the Al Entisar missed their flights back home from Malta,” Mr Attiga said in a frustrated tone.

A Nato official said the inspections were carried out under a UN mandate aimed at preventing attacks and threats against civilians in Libya.

Asked if Nato was suspecting some form of suspicious activity aboard the Al Entisar the spokesman replied: “Criteria for selection are based upon intelligence and operational conditions, therefore we are unable to discuss specific details.”

He said all vessels entering the maritime surveillance area were subject to inspection and boarding before entering or exiting Libyan waters.“Nato has introduced a system of cargo recognition which may alleviate the need for boarding. In the case of Al Entisar, these procedures were not followed,” the spokesman said adding that Nato had “liaised with the corresponding NGO to clarify the boarding procedures”.

However, Mr Attiga said Nato had never mentioned such procedures to the foundation, adding that his team would be glad to follow them.

Libyan captain Tarig Ali Eddrgash described how the ship was 50 miles out of Tripoli when the Spanish Nato vessel radioed him to return to port and wait there for inspection.

He suggested that they meet at specified coordinates on the way to Malta so as not to waste time. However, at about 4 a.m. – when on his way to that coordinate – he was ordered to stop and waited till 7 a.m. for Nato officers to turn up and inspect the boat and the passengers.

“When we went to Misurata we had no problems with Nato... But now when we changed to Tripoli it seems it’s a different treatment. The Spanish warship always gives us a hard time,” he said.

Mr Eddrgash said he was being left with no choice but to take the aid to Misurata from where it would have to be transported to Tripoli by truck.