Romanian ship captain jailed by Greek Cypriots after docking in North Cyprus

The captain of an oil tanker has been given a one month prison sentence by a Greek Cypriot court in Larnaca for docking his ship at a port in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus.

According to a report in Kathimerini, the captain of the Malta-flagged Red Garnet was arrested on Sunday morning at the Vasilikos Power Station in Larnaca District for what the Greek Cypriot authorities called “illegal entry” to a “closed port”.

The captain, a 60-year-old Romanian national, was accused of docking in Boğaz Harbour, in Iskele, near Mağusa / Famagusta between October and December of last year. The port is under the control of the Turkish Cypriot authorities, which the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus refuses to recognise.

His arrest by Greek Cypriot law enforcement officers meant the captain was unable to depart with the Red Garnet, an Italian-owned tanker. The vessel set sail from Cyprus without him and is due to arrive in Odessa, Ukraine, on Saturday, 7 August.

Following his arrest, the Romanian captain’s was case fast-tracked and his hearing held on Tuesday. The judge at Larnaca District Court found him guilty of ‘unauthorised entry into the Republic of Cyprus’ and sentenced him to one month in prison.

In a similar incident two years ago, a Syrian captain was also detained and fined €1,800 by a Limassol court for anchoring his Belize-flagged ship at the TRNC’s main Mağusa port.

Greek Cypriots claiming that they are entitled to bar international shipping from using TRNC ports, but their interpretation of international maritime law is at odds with others. Thirteen years ago, the European Commission said ships could freely access TRNC ports.

In a response to Marios Matsakis, a Greek Cypriot Member of the European Parliament, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in January 2008 that, “the use of ports in the north was not prohibited. Based on the general principles of international law, entry and exit of vessels from sea ports in the northern part of Cyprus is not prohibited.”


Main image, top, aerial view of Famagusta (Mağusa), Northern Cyprus, 22.12.2018, from The Old Town wall. Photo © sadullahkisi / shutterstock