After nearly four years trapped on an abandoned ship in Egypt, a Syrian seafarer is headed home.
Mohammad Aisha, forced to stay aboard the 5,100-dwt general cargoship Aman (built 1999) by an Egyptian court order, is set to board an aeroplane on Thursday night after more than 18 months alone.
"This has been one of the most frustrating abandonment cases I have worked on, because the situation has been so desperate for Mohammad for so long," said International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) Arab World and Iran network coordinator Mohamed Arrachedi.
"It has to be said that the suffering caused to Mohammad could have been perfectly avoided if the shipowner and the other parties with obligations to him and the ship did the right thing from the start.
"So much has changed in the last four years. Mohammad’s home in Syria could be unrecognisable. Some of his family died years ago. The delays mean he will never see his mother again, and that is terribly sad."
An Egyptian court named Aisha the Bahrain-flagged Aman's "legal guardian" following the ship's detention at the Suez anchorage in July 2017 and its subsequent abandonment.
The legal guardian designation meant Aisha was unable to leave the ship that was without food, water or fuel.
He was forced to swim to shore for the necessities and to charge his phone.
It was not until the ITF put forth one of its contacts as a replacement for Aisha that the court allowed him to depart.
In March, the union called the situation a "one-man humanitarian crisis". A doctor from the union said he was malnourished, anaemic and suffering pain in his legs along with psychological issues related to his effective solitary confinement.
The ITF said the ship ran aground in March 2019 and the rest of Aisha's shipmates left that September.
After repeated requests for repatriation, he asked the ITF for help in December 2020.
"He is naturally overjoyed, but he is very tired. There have been so many false starts to get him home. Until his feet were on that aeroplane — we took nothing for granted," said Arrachedi.
The ITF said Egypt's legal guardian system must be reformed and said it would begin the process of recovering his wages from the shipowner, listed as Bahrain-based Tylos Shipping & Marine Services.
It said despite the years-long detention, Aisha still intends to return to sea.
"We wish him all the love in the world to rebuild his life," Arrachedi said.