Turkey’s transport ministry said on Monday it was banning travel to Greece on yachts, sailboats and ferries after Greek authorities seized 11 vessels among them four yachts headed for Kos and Rhodes, as well as a freighter off the port of Kalamaki for violating maritime regulation.
All Turkish-flagged commercial yachts (starting September 25) and passenger ships (as of October 12) are banned from traveling to Greek destinations, the Turkish transport ministry said in a September 25 statement citing the Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (Paris MoU) inspections.
“As of today we have stopped the sailing of commercial yachts to Greece. The fact that Greece started to inspect and seize such small commercial vessels, shorter than 24 meters, by claiming they did not comply with the rules, has put at risk Turkey’s status as a ‘white flag’ country. This is unacceptable,” Turkey’s transport minister, Ahmet Arslan, said as reported by Turkish daily Hurriyet.
“We have also warned our correspondents and sent our experts there. If Greece changes this exception, our commercial yachts will travel to Greek islands and contribute to trade. But we will not allow those vessels to sail as long as Greece maintains its attitude regarding this rule,” he said, adding that he would discuss the issue with his Greek counterpart on October 12 while on an official visit to Athens.
In the meantime, companies offering Greek island tours have said they would stop operations as of October 12 while the head of the Bodrum Sailors Association, Mustafa Demiröz, said the issue should be resolved through dialogue.
Turkey’s statement comes after Greek coastguard authorities enforced a recent amendment, which foresees sanctions imposed in cases of violation of existing legislation on charter of private pleasure boats. Under the amendment, local port authorities can impose additional penalties in case of breach of existing legislation on illegal chartering of private pleasure craft. Illegal charters are then detained and the violator required to pay the fine on the spot or submit a letter of guarantee set at twice the fine.
According to reports, Greek tourism professionals are calling for an improved legal framework which provides clarity, underlining the contribution of tourism to the Eastern Aegean islands from neighboring Turkey.
The professionals have underlined that especially in May, June and September, when tourism inflows are lower, on Lesvos, Patmos, Kos and Symi, as well as on other islands, revenues from Turkish tourists arriving on private pleasure boats are significant.