Why Was the Mavi Marmara Reflagged Just Before Sailing? 84

Contrary to virtually all media reports to date, it appears the Mavi Marmara was reflagged from Turkey to the Comoros Islands around 20 May, shortly before heading the peace flotilla.

This is very important. While the Israeli attack remains illegal, it means that the injured party – and the party with legal jurisdiction over the event – is the incapable Comoros Islands rather than the highly capable Turkey. It also greatly reduces the NATO angle, unless other attacked ships were flying the Turkish flag.

But the question must be why on earth was the flag changed just before sailing, and who instigated it?

Flags of convenience are normally adopted for purely commercial reasons to escape regulations of s “serious” flag state like the UK or US, in particular on issues like rates of pay, union recognition, working conditions and hours etc. The Turkish owned merchant fleet uses flags of convenience much less than other advance nations – possibly from national pride, possibly because Turkish regulations are not too onerous anyway.

But it would seem remarkable if the owners of the ship decided for commercial reasons to switch flags just before sailing in the “Peace flotilla”. It is on the face of it a remarkably foolish decision. Did the Turkish governrnent influence it to lessen the political responsibility of Turkey in any incident? Did Israel manage to influence the owners in any way? Is the vessel leased? Who are the owners, and just why did they do this?

None of this masks the illegality of Israel attacking a ship under any foregin flag in international waters. But bluntly, it was a stupid decision in practice by the protestors to set sail in a Comoros flagged ship.

Fortunately the MV Rachel Corrie is Irish registered, and the flag state (Ireland) has already shown it takes its duty seriously by telling the Israeli government it expects the Rachel Corrie to pass unhindered.

84 thoughts on “Why Was the Mavi Marmara Reflagged Just Before Sailing?

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  • Mae

    Challenger 1 was American flagged,

    Gazze was Turkish flagged

    plus one Swedish and one Greek flagged ship each, no idea who the sixth boat belongs to

  • Craig


    Thanks. Yet the ship on which people were killed was changed to a useless flag just before.

  • Mae

    That’s true, but it’s been known since the attack and it has not stopped Turkey from demanding consequences – there were 400 plus Turkish citizens onboard, after all. Legally, I’d guess you might have to stick with illegal boarding and maybe kidnap/hijack and excessive use of force on the other vessels as they did not resist and were still physically attacked. Individual lawsuits are also possible given the circumstances.

    I didn’t even expect NATO to sit on this at all, I don’t expect anything to change, but at least maybe the people in charge are realising just how dangerous it is to give Israel carte blanche. Even Angela Merkel has come out with some unusually harsh criticism. Given the collective responsibility of the German people for the situation in Israel, this is completely at odds with the position taken normally.

  • earwicga

    Where is it shown that the RV Rachel Corrie is Irish flagged as when I looked yesterday it was Cambodian flagged?

  • Hans Adler

    So far as I know the MV Rachel Corrie is registered in Cambodia, not Ireland, and the Irish warnings against Israel were very clearly formulated w.r.t. harming Irish citizens, rather than hostilities against an Irish-flagged ship.

    It seems that most of the useful information about the flag of the Mavi Marmara is in Turkish, which I can’t read. But I read somewhere that her Turkish registration had been changed so that she was only approved for inland waters. Perhaps putting her under a Turkish flag for use in the Mediterranean was impossible for regulatory reasons. In a Wikipedia discussion it was also suggested that she might have been under the Turkish flag in spite of being registered elsewhere. Apparently this is possible for chartered ships, for up to 2 years.

  • StefZ

    a possibly connected question is why did the Israelis not wait until the ships had sailed into their (Gazan) waters?

    the Israelis must have known the potential consequences of assaulting ships (in a half-arsed but lethal way) on the high seas

    so why did they decide to do it that way?

  • Ed

    On the channel Four News a couple of nights ago, in a studio interview with an ex-navy security expert, it was said the Mavi Marmara was registered to the Comoros Islands. Then in the next report, from Israel, I’m sure the c4 reporter said the ship was registered to Turkey. I know I thought it very odd at the time.

  • Arsalan

    In the other thread, some mentioned Israel has a plan. And this is your answer!

    The plan was:



    3:scream antisemitism

  • Christina

    “why did the Israelis not wait until the ships had sailed into their (Gazan) waters?”

    The above poster may have a point re. exposing the illegitimacy of Israel’s terrorising Gazan waters.

    Then again, perhaps it’s misguided to look for any sort of logical motivation at all. Israel seems to have long passed the mark where its actions can be judged by sane, rational standards. Forget Ghadaffi or the ‘mad mullahs’. Israel is the true mad dog of the Middle East. And it’s got nukes.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Is anyone picking up on the fact that none of the false flag operations that you nutters cite were actual false flag operations, while in contrast this is looking like a false flag operation?

  • Matt Keefe

    Craig, could simply have been a personal decision by the owner – looming tax bill, inspection due, lost paperwork, large repair bill likely, hard times for his business – any one of the myriad small considerations unrelated to this particular voyage that might have persuaded commercially-minded owners to take the step.

  • Christina

    Like Monty I’d be interesed in knowing the source for this. Alex pointed out that the shipping register lists the Mavi Marmara as Turkish, as does FreeGaza itself. I can’t help but wonder if this is some hasbara misinformation?

  • Mae

    StefZ – “why did the Israelis not wait until the ships had sailed into their (Gazan) waters?”

    I’ve been thinking about this as well and my reasoning is that the Isaelis did not want to give up on the tactical advantage of a nighttime raid – i.e passengers sleeping or at the least not very alert, element of surprise (can’t see Zodiacs being deployed) and other visibility problems: on-board cameras incapable of recording as well as in daylight, other ships can’t properly see what’s happening. Plus an Israeli fondness for the nighttime raid coupled with the conviction that it might be criticised per se, but that nobody will do anything about it (they rammed and nearly sunk one of these aid ships last year and no one cared)

  • Hans Adler

    The MV Rachel Corrie still appears on e-ships.net under her previous name, Linda. I found her by entering her IMO number 6715281 into the search form. She is shown as under the Cambodian flag.

    The Mavi Marmara is in fact shown as under the Turkish flag.

    It appears that the information is not necessarily up to date, since the site says: “The information provided by World Shipping Register is based on material carefully collated from the many sources. We are not responsible for any loss or damage caused by the incorrectness of the said information.”

  • Ruth

    If you look at this website,



    it says Mavim Marmara ‘was sold this year by the state-owned Istanbul Fast Ferries Company for just $1.25m. The ship’s new owners were the Insani Yardim Vakfi (The Foundation of Humanitarian Relief), a Turkish non-governmental organization that focuses on Palestine, and particularly Gaza. Little is known about the group; various reports allege they are Islamists and have close ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. The group itself strongly denies such ties. What is more likely is that the IHH has some form of backing from Ankara. Turkey is not famed for the strength of its civil society, and it is unlikely that any group would have been able to take such bold steps against Israel without the private support of someone in power.’

  • Christina

    I still think the fact that Free Gaza list the ship as being Turkish flagged has to be significant. Surely, if the registration was changed, they would be aware of this? If so, and if the ship is indeed Comoros flagged, they are lying on their website. Would they do this, if it were so easy to prove them wrong?

  • Abe Rene

    Whoever was behind the changing of the flag, it still wouldn’t enable the Israelis to go in shooting without thinking about consequences. They killed Turkish citizens, and there’s no way that the Turks will let them get away scot-free. Hopefully the Turks will exert a powerful influence to getting the blockade on Gaza lifted altogether.

  • Monty

    Mavi Marmara has a IMO number of 9005869. This is equivalent to the chassis number or VIN on a car. This does not change when the ship’s name is changed.

    On marinetraffic.com it indicates the vessel’s flag was indeed Comoros at the time of the incident.

    Vessel’s Name Flag Call Sign Last Reported

    MAVI MARMARA Comoros D6FU2 2010-05-31 01:56

    MAVI MARMARA Comoros D6FM6 2010-05-22 05:27

    MAVI MARMARA Turkey TCBY 2010-05-01 00:41

    On digital-seas.com it is listed as Comoros flagged.

  • Christina

    Thanks for the research, Monty. It does now appear that the vessel was Comoros flagged. Although this doesn’t change the illegality of the attack, or lessen the horror of the murders, I expect the hasbara machine to be all over this soon. Now the question is, why was the registry changed?

  • Jay Vos

    Thanks Craig for these posts during the last days.

    Reading this post and the comments makes me just question who to believe. Not you or the commenters, just the information muddle about the ship registrations.

  • Christina

    I don’t think there’s any dispute over the Rachel Corrie – it’s clear it’s a Cambodian flagged vessel. The case of the Mavi Marmara, however, is much more intriguing.

  • Arsalan


    The Turkish government can not act, because there is no Turkish government.

    Turkey is ruled by its military, and people only have the power to elect front men who shout slogans but have no power to produce laws or anything else.

    The actions of Turkey will change when the military elite is removed by the people or

    the lower ranks of the army.

    The government has no power to remove anyone, because in Turkey it is the military that appoints or removes the government, not the other way around.

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