Turkish research vessel returns to disputed waters

Seismic research vessel Oruc Reis (IMO 9675470) has set off from port after maintenance on another mission into disputed waters – as the Turkish authorities always said that it would. The gas exploration south of the Greek island Kastelorizo is scheduled to last until October 20th. The ship sailed from Antalya with an escort. Greece called the voyage an illegal action which it said should be terminated immediately.

Turkish energy minister Fatih Donmez posted on Twitter that “the maintenance work on our seismic research vessel has been completed. We will continue to research, dig and protect our rights.”

By Monday evening the Oruc Reis’ AIS signal showed her holding station about 50 miles south of the island of Kastellorizo, broadcasting “restricted manoeuvrability”. That location was near to the line between pre-existing Greek and Turkish EEZ claim zones.

In September Oruc Reis withdrew and the two sides began working on arrangements for a new round of negotiations. Exploratory talks in Istanbul are expected soon. 

The research vessel is being accompanied by offshore tugs Ataman (IMO 9420540) and Cengiz Han.

Greece’s Foreign Ministry responded promptly, stating that “the new Turkish announcement on surveys south of Kastellorizo within the Greek continental shelf, at a distance of just 6.5nm from Greek shores, is a major escalation”.

Kastellorizo is a small Greek island located about three miles off the Turkish port of Kas, and it is the baseline for the Greek EEZ claim in the region.

The EU has also cautioned that Turkey could face sanctions if it continues its exploration activity in contested areas of the Eastern Mediterranean.

2017-built, Turkey-flagged, 4789 gt Oruc Reis is owned by Enerji Ve Tabii Kaynaklar care of Oras Denizcilik ve Ticaret Ltd Sti of Istanbul, Turkey

2007-built, Turkey-flagged, 1,039 gt Ataman is owned and managed by Aras Romorkor Hizmetleri San of Istanbul, Turkey.

2007-built, Turkey-flagged, 1,039 gt Cengiz Han is also owned and managed by Aras Romorkor Hizmetleri San of Istanbul, Turkey.