A sailor who was stranded alone on a ghost ship for four years and forced to swim ashore to get supplies has finally been freed.
Mohammed Aisha was trapped in a legal bind after the ship was held by authorities in Egypt with him on board in 2017.
He was obliged to stay on the MV Aman as its chief officer when it was detained near the Suez Canal because its safety certificates had expired.
Likening the vessel to a grave in the dead of night, Mohammed told the BBC: “You can’t see anything. You can’t hear anything. It’s like you’re in a coffin.”
At one point a storm blew the Aman off its anchorage and it drifted five miles eventually running aground near the shoreline.
Desperate for supplies, Mohammed said he was then able to swim ashore every few days, buy food and recharge his phone.
During the recent blockage caused by the giant container Ever Given, Mohammed said he counted dozens of ships waiting in the traffic.
His own brother, a fellow seafarer, sailed past more than once but although the pair talked on the phone they were too far away from each other to wave.
The nightmare began in 2017 when the Aman was stopped at the Egyptian port of Adabiya due to its expired certificates and safety equipment.
But the ship’s Lebanese contractors failed to pay for fuel and its owners in Bahrain were in financial difficulty so it was held indefinitely.
With the captain already ashore and the other crewmates quickly leaving, a local court declared Mohammed, the ship’s chief officer, its legal guardian.
He says he was never told what the order meant and only discovered months later that he would be forced to stay on board while it moored near the southern entrance of the Suez Canal.
The ordeal left him suffering suicidal thoughts and mourning the tragic loss of his mother, who he credits for teaching him excellent English, without any support in 2018.
“I seriously considered ending my life,” Mohammed said.
He has finally been released with the help of the International Transport Workers’ Federation the global union federation for seafarers.
The union offered to the court to have one its union representatives in Egypt take Mr Aisha’s place and become the legal guardian of the vessel.
Mohammed was finally reunited with his family in Syria on Thursday. He is determined to return to the job he loves and harbours a dream of one day becoming a captain.
“I am a chief mate and I was one step away from being a captain,” he said.