Three Missing After Turkish-Owned Cargo Ship Sinks Off Romania

Romanian Coast Guard
Romanian authorities are search for three missing crewmembers after the cargo ship sunk in the Bleak Sea (Polita de Frontiera photo)

Published May 18, 2024 2:55 PM by The Maritime Executive


Romanian authorities have a search and rescue mission underway on Saturday, May 18, after a small, Turkish-owned general cargo ship sunk off the northern coast near the border with Ukraine. Three crewmembers, Syrian nationals, are reported missing while eight were rescued by another Turkish cargo ship that was in the area.

The alert was received around 0400 local time Saturday morning that the Mohammed Z, registered in Tanzania, had gone down approximately 26 nautical miles from the coastal town of Sfantu Gheorghe near the Danube and the northern border with Ukraine. 

The Mohammed Z, built in 1988, is 3,425 dwt. The ship has been under Turkish ownership recently and according to reports it was cited for deficiencies with its lifebuoys and an inoperative safety lamp as well as unsafe working and living conditions during a recent Port State inspection in Egypt. The vessel is 262 feet (80 meters) in length and was traveling from the anchorage off Istanbul to a reported destination of Sulina, Romania near the mouth of the Danube. The crew consisted of a total of 11 people, nine from Syria and two from Egypt.

Romanian authorities reported that they alerted two merchant ships in the area and another Turkish-owned cargo ship Michel (5,444 dwt) registered in Comoros was able to locate and rescue eight of the crewmembers. The ship diverted on its trip from Odesa to Bulgaria and the crew were medically evacuated to Constanta, Romania. One crewmember reportedly was suffering from two unspecified injuries and was taken to a hospital.

Two rescue vessels from ARSVOM, Artemis, and Apollo, started the search and were joined by two Border Police patrol boats. Later a helicopter from the Romanian Air Force also joined the search operation. The search operation was suspended for the night and will resume on Sunday morning.

Officially the authorities are saying the reason for the sinking of the ship is unknown and they are investigating. The crew is reported to be cooperating. Reports highlight that it is in a similar area where in the past drifting mines have been discovered. The ship was traveling in a busy sea lane along the coast also used by vessels traveling to Ukraine.