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Syrian sailor stranded off the coast of Egypt is free after four years Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Syrian sailor stranded off the coast of Egypt is free after four years

Seafarer abandonment is on the rise, according to the International Maritime Organisation [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 April, 2021

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Mohammed Aisha was obliged by an Egyptian court to stay on board the cargo ship MV Aman after it was abandoned by its owners.

A sailor who spent almost four years aboard a ship stranded off the Egyptian coast has been freed and allowed to return home to Syria on Thursday.

The move marks the end of an ordeal that begun in July 2017, when the cargo ship MV Aman was detained at the Egyptian port of Adabiya due to expired safety equipment and classification certificates. Its Lebanese contractors later failed to pay for fuel and its owners in Bahrain were unable to pay the fees.

Mohammed Aisha, the ship's chief officer, was stranded on the vessel without power, sanitation or company, after a local court had declared him the MV Aman's legal guardian. He did not understand that he was legally obliged to stay aboard despite being unpaid, he said, and only realized months later, as the other crew members started to leave. 

In a text message sent from Cairo airport to the BBC, Aisha, who was born in the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus, said he was feeling "Relief. Joy." In a voice message, he then said: "How do I feel? Like I finally got out of prison. I'm finally going to be rejoined with my family. I'm going to see them again."

In August 2018, Aisha’s psychological wellbeing reached a low point when he learned that his mother had died. "I seriously considered ending my life," he told the BBC. A year later, diesel ran out on the ship and he was left with no power.

Read also: How Israel and Iran's shadow war is playing out at sea

He said that at night, the ship was like a grave. "You can't see anything. You can't hear anything," he said. "It's like you're in a coffin. 

The ship’s owners, Tylos Shipping and Marine Services, told the BBC they had tried to help.

"I can't force a judge to remove the legal guardianship," a representative told the British broadcaster. "And I can't find a single person on this planet - and I've tried - to replace him."

There are more than 250 active cases around the world where crews are caught up in legal battles, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Eighty-five new cases were reported in 2020, twice as many as in the previous year.

The International Maritime Organisation also found a “dramatic rise” in cases over the past three years, a phenomenon that affects “real people, often leaving them in a desperate plight,” the IMO said

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