Guinea Bissau Registry Deflags Controversial Turkish Aid Convoy

The Akdeniz, seen here as the Prince, is one of three ships recently bought by IHH (Akdeniz)
The Akdeniz (ex name Prince) is one of three ships bought by IHH. It was loaded and nearing departure when it was deflagged (Akdeniz)

Published Apr 29, 2024 9:48 PM by The Maritime Executive


A Turkish aid society's plan for a "freedom flotilla" to Gaza has encountered a setback: the registry of Guinea-Bissau has deflagged the group's newly-purchased vessels. 

The Guinea Bissau International Ships Registry (GBISR) has withdrawn its flag from two out of three vessels operated by the "Freedom Flotilla Coalition," a group backed by the controversial IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation. One of the ships, ro/pax ferry Akdeniz (ex name Prince), was already loaded with over 5,000 tons of aid destined for Gaza but cannot set sail from Turkey.

The coalition said in a statement that the “blatantly political move” by the West African nation came after GBISR requested to inspect the Akdeniz. The coalition called this a highly unusual request, considering its ship had already passed all required inspections. Before the inspection was completed, GBISR informed the coalition that it had withdrawn the Guinea Bissau flag from two of its ships.

GBISR referred to the planned mission to Gaza in its communication about the flag cancellation, the coalition said. The flag registry also asked for information of the ships’ destinations, estimated arrival dates, a formal letter explicitly approving the transportation of humanitarian aid and a complete manifest of the cargo - all causes for complaint, the group said. 

The Freedom Flotilla Coalition is a group of 12 countries including Turkey, and is backed by IHH. 

IHH recently bought three ships for the mission. Apart from the Akdeniz, the other two are the freighter Anadolu (ex name Dalya H) and passenger vessel Vicdan (ex name The Majestic). All are docked at the port of Tuzla, which is located south of Istanbul.

 In 2010, IHH organized a similar convoy to Gaza with six ships and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, intending to run an Israeli blockade and generate publicity. When Israeli commandos boarded the lead ship, the passengers fought back, resulting in nine activists dead and dozens more injured. 

IHH is a member of Ittilaf al-Kheir, an Islamic charity organization that backs the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas. The IHH has support from the Turkish government, and also allegedly has ties to Turkish intelligence.