ITF contact for Egypt Alsayed Alchazli (left) celebrates with Turkish Captain Vehbi Kara. Photo: ITF

Turkish Captain Returns Home After a Year as ‘Legal Guardian’ of Abandoned Ship in Egypt

Mike Schuler
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July 6, 2021

Captain Kara was stuck in Egypt for more than a year as a court-appointed legal guardian of the bulk carrier MV Kenan Mete.

A Turkish ship captain is heading home after more than a year stuck in Adabiya Port near Suez under an Egyptian court order. Much of that time was spent on board his abandoned ship.

The International Transport Federation Workers’ says Captain Vehbi Kara is now returning to Turkey after months of campaigning for his release. His saga began in June 2020 when his ship, the Panama-registered bulk carrier Kenan Mete, was seized by the Egyptian authorities after its owner, Blodwen Marina, refused to pay the ship’s crew and abandoned the vessel.

Under a “peculiar” Egyptian law, however, Captain Kara was appointed as ship’s legal guardian and was blocked from the leaving the vessel.

Kenan Mete
MV Kenan Mete. Photo via ITF

Although the ship’s insurer provided Kara and his crew with food, water and basic amenities, they were essentially left stranded as the ship was unsuccessfully put up for auction. The ITF reports that it helped secure the release and repatriation of almost all the crew between October 2020 and January 2021, along with four months’ pay. But the release of Captain Kara proved to be more difficult.

“It was only when ITF took up his cause and we organized a replacement as judicial guard, after months of campaigning for his release, that Captain Kara was allowed to go home,” said ITF’s Arab World and Iran network coordinator Mohamed Arrachedi, who assisted in Kara’s release.

Some reprieve came in March when power to the ship failed and Captain Kara was allowed to move to a nearby hotel, bust still unable to leave and without pay.

“Maritime work is hard at the best of times,” said Captain Kara. “But I have only survived the last 14 months because the ITF was always by my side. God bless all your hard work. Thank you also to our P&I and the Turkish Embassy.”

Kara’s case is reminiscent of a similar case involving navigational officer Mohammad Aisha, who was made legal guardian of the MV Aman for four years. Aisha was finally repatriated in April. With Kara’s release, the ITF is now calling on Egypt to change how it treats abandoned seafarers, and more specifically calling a reform of its legal guardianship system.

“It is wonderful news that Captain Kara is going home, but we must reflect on the fact that it took an organisation like the ITF getting involved, arranging a reliever as legal guard, and applying to a court, to secure this outcome,” said Aisha. “Repatriating an abandoned seafarer should be more straight-forward than that.”

“Port States like Egypt have a moral duty to help abandoned crew get home. Egypt has an opportunity now to reform its legal guardianship system – and we hope that they take up this opportunity,” he added.

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