"When Captain Alexander Ovchinnikov took over command of the ship
Gobustan in Istanbul, the term “COVID-19” hadn’t been coined yet,
“quarantine” was the stuff of apocalyptic science fiction, and few
people outside of China knew where Wuhan was. It was December 25, 2019.
Ovchinnikov, 39, was still on that ship through the summer, along with
11 other crew members: The second engineer was Russian too, the cook was
Ukranian, and the rest were from Azerbaijan. At least one had been on
board since October 2019, and none of them had received a salary since
January. The crew of Gobustan had been stuck since June 16 in the
Italian port of Ravenna, on the Adriatic Sea. “We live like in prison.
We get up, have breakfast, do some routine activities, then we have
dinner and go to bed,” said Ovchinnikov. Their days were all the same
and the stillness was shaken only by cleaning and maintenance
activities. Sure enough, the ship was clean as a whistle.
A few hundred yards away, another vessel, Sultan Bey, captained by Eldur
Abdurakhmanov, 42, of Azerbaijan, had been in the same situation. The
ship is smaller than Gobustan, but both fly the Maltese flag and, more
importantly, are owned by the same company, Palmali Holding. This large
Turkish-Azerbaijani shipping company sank into a deep financial crisis
after the arrest of its founder and owner, Mübariz Mansimov Gurbanoğlu,
on March 15, 2020.
In the Mediterranean Sea there are now more than 15 Palmali ships stuck
in ports, as if in suspended animation, having been seized by creditors.
Many of them still have sailors aboard. In Italy there are five: the two
in Ravenna, plus two in Sardinia (General Shikhlinsky and Khosrov Bey)
and one near Venice, Zeinabaldyn Tagiyev. In Beirut, several sailors of
Captain Nagdaliyev have been stuck since May 12—just half a mile from
the giant warehouse explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital on August
4, 2020. And the origin of that disaster was yet another ship abandoned
by its owner, Rhosus, which had arrived in Beirut in 2013 with a cargo
of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate and a ballast of debt. The Rhosus crew
was trapped for a year before they were released. The cargo went into a
warehouse and the ship itself sank to the bottom of the harbor. That
cargo later fueled one of the largest non-nuclear, human-made explosions
Via Gabe Goldberg posting in the Computer RISKS Journal
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics