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Tanker Captain Jailed for Calling at Port in Northern Cyprus

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Published Aug 9, 2021 2:23 AM by The Maritime Executive

Last week, the captain of a product tanker was arrested at the port of Larnaca, Cyprus and sentenced to one month in jail for "unauthorized entries" to a port on the northern half of the island.

Cypriot law enforcement officers arrested the master of the Maltese-flagged tanker Red Garnet, a Romanian national, after finding that he had captained a vessel that called at the port of Bogazi in late 2020. Bogazi is located near Famagusta in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a breakaway state which has existed since 1983. Turkey is the only nation that recognizes Northern Cyprus, and its legitimacy is disputed by the Republic of Cyprus government in Nicosia.

For border-control purposes, the Cypriot goverment treats ports located in the northern area as though they are Cypriot, and it considers some to be "closed," including Famagusta, Karavostasi and Kyrenia. Vessels that call at these seaports are in violation of the Cypriot closure order, and the master may face criminal charges for "unauthorized entry to the Republic of Cyprus" if the vessel later calls in a Cypriot port.

Greece, which maintains close ties with the Republic of Cyprus, maintains similar restrictions on port calls in Northern Cyprus.

According to Cypriot officials, the captain of the Red Garnet called in Bogazi twice - once in October and once in December last year. He was arrested on his arrival in Larnaca aboard the Red Garnet, and with fast-track prosecution procedures the trial and sentencing were completed within two days, according to news agency CNA. He will spend a month in prison - a considerably harsher sentence than the $2000 fine handed down for the last publicized offense, which occurred in 2019. 

The Red Garnet was not detained and has since departed for Cannakale, Turkey.