The Hellenic Navy has ordered the immediate replacement of the captain of the gunboat that was nudged by a Turkish-flagged trading ship early on Friday morning off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos.
The replacement of the captain of the Armatolos gunboat was reportedly ordered so that naval authorities send out a message that it will not tolerate lapses in vigilance, even though the incident was, according to international regulations, not the fault of the Greek vessel.
In its probe of the incident, the Hellenic Navy is examining a range of causes, and, in particular, the probability that the officers and crew on board the Armatolos lacked the necessary alertness and reflexes to deal with the situation.
There were no reports of injuries or serious damage to the ship.
Six months ago, the Kanaris frigate ran aground near an islet close to Psyttaleia while on a routine route to the Salamina naval station, incurring serious damage.
Sources said that the captain’s replacement had already been planned for the near future, but was expedited as a result of the collision.
The incident was seen as a blow to the prestige of the Hellenic Navy, and, according to reports, the leadership of the Hellenic Armed Forces General Staff (GEETHA) as well as naval military authorities were visibly annoyed.
GEETHA chief Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis was informed about the incident as he returned later yesterday from a three-day visit to the United States.
The Armatolos was conducting a patrol as part of a NATO operation against migrant smuggling at the time of the incident.
According to an announcement shortly after by the Hellenic Navy General Staff, the Turkish-flagged vessel, the Karmate, sped up and sailed back toward Turkey after approaching and nudging the Armatolos.
Greek reports said the Karmate did not respond to the gunboat’s radio calls and violated maritime safety rules.
NATO was reportedly briefed by Greek authorities about the incident.