Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Greek Coastguard Fires on Turkish Freighter with Allegations of Drug Smuggling

Tensions Continue to Escalate as Cargo Ship Fails to Stop
Shipping News Feature
TURKEY – GREECE – The seemingly perpetual row between Greece and Turkey has once again taken a turn for the worse as a Turkish freighter has been fired upon by a Greek coastguard vessel in the Aegean Sea. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has condemned the incident, saying that, 'There is no justification... for firing on an unarmed commercial ship carrying freight between two Turkish ports. Our sole consolation is that nobody was killed or injured as a result of the incident'.

According to reports on Turkish media the M/V ACT, a 4,298 dwt freighter, was taking cargo from Iskenderun to another Turkish port in the Gulf of İzmit when it was intercepted by the Greek vessel and ordered to pull into the Greek island of Rhodes for inspection. The vessel’s captain ignored the order and headed for Turkish waters, where upon the ACT was fired upon after not heeding a warning.

Both parties disagree as to what actually happened. The Greeks state that after failing to pull to, their coastguard vessel fired warning shots, firstly ahead of the other ship, then ‘where the shots would do no harm’, after which the Turkish captain claims that his vessel was struck by sixteen bullets and photographs seem to confirm this. No casualties occurred and the ships integrity was not compromised.

A release from the Greek authorities states that they had received an anonymous call saying the ship had narcotics aboard. Drug smuggling is one of very few reasons whereby an official vessel can legally order another to stop and be searched.

The incident follows decades of confrontation between the two countries starting even before the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1922. Since then the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974, thousands of military confrontations - including several fighter aircraft lost from engaging in mock dogfights in the 1990’s – and an increasingly virulent war of words between the Greek and Turkish governments has raged.

The row had been recently inflamed by Athens refusal to hand over to Ankara eight military officers accused by Turkey of participating in the attempted coup last summer and who fled to Greece. It remains to be seen if the talks over the future of Cyprus, currently under way in Switzerland and which 24 hours ago were rated as ‘hopeful’, will suffer as a result of this latest crash. Now it remains to be seen if other commercial ships in the Aegean are going to be subject to harassment and/or military action and an escalation of hostilities will result.