The humanitarian aid ship Open Arms finally left Larnaca on Tuesday, pulling a barge carrying 200 tonnes of food supplies and was expected to reach the Gaza coast by Wednesday night. Delivering supplies could prove a challenge in the absence of a port at which the cargo could be unloaded, while the floating dock and pier which the US will set up to facilitate the unloading of cargo would need up to two months to be completed.

According to a BBC report, until the pier is ready, there are plans of “dredging a beach to allow barges to get close enough to shore that aid can be unloaded on to trucks.” The movement of the aid, once it arrives on the Gaza shore would be undertaken by US company Fogbow which will deliver it to the distribution points. The BBC also reported that Fogbow was still looking for funding and hoped to set up a donor-funded operation to help deliver aid into Gaza, where it would be distributed by Palestinian civilians.

Once the pier is completed, the US defence department estimates that two million meals a day could enter Gaza, almost enough to feed the entire population. It would be much more aid than is currently entering Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel. Everyone is of the view that the quickest and most effective way to deliver aid to Gaza is by road, but Israeli restrictions mean that only a small part of what is needed is allowed through the crossings.

Although the Amalthea sea corridor from Larnaca to Gaza has finally been put into operation, aid agencies say that until the pier being constructed by the US is ready, there would have to be increased shipments over land to meet the needs of the population. In other words, the aid being delivered through Amalthea would not be enough to meet needs before the pier is set up in two months.

This should not detract from Cyprus’ contribution to helping aid reach Gaza, as it has offered another option for delivering supplies. Aid by road and air drops is inadequate and what can be delivered through Amalthea would be helpful even though it would not solve the problem until the pier is set up. President Nikos Christodoulides’ initiative, undertaken several months ago, and the persistence of his government, in the end, had a positive outcome, even though this needed the full support of the Israeli government as well as the direct involvement of the United States to materialise.

Nevertheless Cyprus, as a base from which aid would be taken to Gaza, is playing a part, in its own small way, to get some desperately needed aid to the suffering population.