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Court Orders Sale of Turkish Freighter

October 23, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A Turkish freighter tied up on the Delaware River for more than four months will be sold to pay off the owner’s debt, a federal judge has ruled, allowing its crew members to finally come ashore.

The eight crew members who have watched summer turn to fall from aboard the 499-foot Ahmetbey at a Philadelphia pier will be returned to Turkey, U.S. District Judge John R. Padova ruled.

Ann-Michelle Higgins, an attorney for Odin Denizcilik A.S., the Istanbul-based company that owns the ship, said Wednesday that the company had not decided whether to appeal Padova’s decision.

The judge issued an order Oct. 6 that the ship be sold by the U.S. Marshal’s office to satisfy a debt calculated at $805,592 at the time, plus interest between then and the time it is paid.

The German bank HSH Nordbank AG claims the ship’s owners defaulted on mortgage payments, and says the same family of companies owes the bank more than $19 million _ something the owners denied.

The Ahmetbey had sailed from Egypt on May 12 with a crew of 21 and unloaded a cargo of steel at a Delaware River terminal in Bucks County, 30 miles north of Philadelphia. Instead of sailing to Montreal as planned for its next cargo, the ship was ordered detained by Padova and has been held at Philadelphia’s Tioga Marine Terminal since early June. The bank had asked that Padova intervene in the case to help collect the debt.

The judge allowed 13 crew members to return to Turkey, while the eight remained to maintain the ship at the pier. U.S. visas had not been sought for the crew, and they have been confined to the ship the entire time.

Unable to go ashore, they have occupied themselves with maintaining the ship, cooking and cleaning, and with diversions provided by visitors ranging from soccer opponents to dance- and language-lesson teachers, as well as a steady supply of videos, said Jack Mudge, chief operating officer of the Seamen’s Church Institute.

The sale is scheduled Nov. 5, said Higgins and Ed Cattell, an attorney for the bank.

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