Turkey’s Transport Ministry bans sailing of commercial yachts, passenger ships to Greece after seizures
The Transport Ministry issued a ban on Turkish-flagged commercial yachts and regular passenger ships sailing to Greece as of Sept. 25 after the Greek authorities seized 11 vessels for allegedly violating a maritime regulation overseeing the quality of international sea transportation.
In a statement sent to regional port authorities, the ministry banned the sailing of Turkish-flagged commercial yacths to Greece as of Sept. 25, as well as regular passenger ships as of Oct. 12, citing the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MoU) inspections.
Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan said Athens’ measures put Turkey’s position as a “white flag” country at risk, with a potential downgrade to “gray flag” status.
“As of today we have stopped the sailing of commercial yachts to Greece. The fact that Greece started to inspect and seize such small commercial vessels, shorter than 24 meters, by claiming that they did not comply with the rules, began to put at risk Turkey’s status as a white flag country. This is unacceptable,” Arslan told state broadcaster TRT Haber on Sept. 25.
“We have also warned our correspondents and sent our experts there. We said that if Greece changes this exception, our commercial yachts will travel to Greek islands and contribute to your trade. But we will not allow those vessels to sail as long as Greece maintains its attitude regarding this rule,” he said, adding that he would discuss the issue with his Greek counterpart on Oct. 12 during his visit to the country.
Meanwhile, Samos Star, a firm operating between Turkey’s Seferihisar coast and the Greek island of Samos, told passengers about the authorities’ decision to ban the sailing of commercial yachts to Greek waters.
According to reports, the seizure of four commercial yachts bound for the Greek islands of Kos and Rhodes, as well as a freighter off the port of Kalamaki, played a role in the ministry’s move.
A number of firms operating tours to Greek islands have also announced that they would halt their plans as of Oct. 12, though some said they have not received any official text on the issue.
Bodrum Sailors Association head Mustafa Demiröz said the issue should be resolved through dialogue.
“Eleven of our yachts and ships have been seized by the Greek authorities up to now. If another yacht or ship is seized, we will be downgraded from white flag status, which symbolizes quality in terms of sea transport, to gray flag. After that comes black flag status. The ministry is considering these facts,” Demiröz told the Doğan News Agency.
The latest measures are mostly expected to affect travel from the Aegean Turkish coasts of Bodrum, Marmaris, Kuşadası, Dikili and Ayvalık to Greece, as sailors demanded a review of the ministry’s decision.