Turkish Deputy Questions Whether Lost Freighter Was Damaged by Mine

High waves batter Eregli's north breakwater during the storm. Kefkametler is visible, foundering at upper left (Turkish Ministry of the Interior)

Published Nov 27, 2023 3:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

The search for missing crewmembers from the lost freighter Kafkametler continues at the port of Eregli, Turkey, one week after the vessel sank in a severe storm. A parliamentary inquiry has been launched into the ship's condition, as it had struck a mine off Romania just six weeks before it went down; it appears as though it may have continued to trade despite sustaining damage. 

On Nov. 19, the cargo ship Kafkametler was caught in severe winds and seas just outside of the port of Eregli, where it had attempted to take shelter from a storm. Kafkametler drifted onto a breakwater and sank alongside.

At the storm's peak, winds reached 75 knots, with accompanying extreme wave heights. Foul weather continued throughout Sunday. "In such adverse weather conditions, unfortunately, we could not carry out search and rescue activities for our twelve citizens, the twelve Turkish crew on the Kafkametler," said Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya.

After the weather cleared, Turkish SAR authorities began the search and recovery process. Five bodies have been found to date, along with debris from the shipwreck. A second severe storm is currently sweeping the Black Sea and has disrupted the search. 

Kafkametler had a previous brush with danger just six weeks ago. The ship hit a mine off the Sulina Canal on October 5, but was unharmed and had continued on her voyage. AIS data shows that she visited several Russian ports in the Sea of Azov and northeastern Black Sea. She returned to Turkish waters early on the 18th and headed for Eregli, likely as a port of refuge.  

A Turkish parliamentary deputy, Deniz Yavuzyilmaz, has launched an inquiry into the circumstances of the sinking. He noted that Kafkametler had previously hit a mine, and he suggested that the vessel may have sustained more serious damage than had been reported at the time, possibly including cracking and damage to her ballast tanks. He has called for an investigation into whether the vessel had continued operating in a degraded material condition.