A worn-out engine and generator on the Piri Reis, a Turkish seismic research ship that set out on the Mediterranean high seas to drill for hydrocarbon resources, are putting the lives of the crew at risk as the team find itself under pressure due to the political significance of their drilling mission, the Habertürk daily reported on Thursday.
“The ship is almost 33 years old, there should be a limit to the risks taken here,” Hüseyin Avni Belli, the director of Dokuz Eylül University’s Naval Sciences and Technology Institute also responsible for the ship’s command, was quoted as saying by the daily, as he explained that the Piri Reis needed serious maintenance before it can conduct any further exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Piri Reis set out from Turkey late in September with a mission to reciprocate Greek Cypriot drilling off of the island of Cyprus to explore for natural gas and oil reserves under the seabed, a move that constituted the most recent episode of a crisis between Turkey and Greek Cyprus. The use of the ship, one of a kind in Turkey, has come under public criticism due to its old age, but Turkish officials bent on responding to Greek Cypriot refusal to halt their drilling project insist that the ship can do its job. Turkey and Greek Cyprus have been deadlocked over territorial disputes for decades.
“Although we renovated the ship, we were not able replace the engine and the generator, which are both waiting at customs,” Belli warned of the danger facing the crew of the ship, and added, “We need to get back to İzmir — we know that it is a matter of legitimacy on the part of Turkish Cyprus, but there is obvious threat to human life here.”
Meanwhile, project coordinator for Piri Reis, Derman Dondurur, noted on Wednesday that Piri Reis was ready to leave port from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) later in the day to conduct a second phase of exploration in zones where Greek Cypriots claimed they found pockets of resources, the Anatolia news agency reported. Evaluating the exploration project as being of very critical political significance, Dondurur also noted that Piri Reis was closing in on the Greek Cypriot platform. Piri Reis came as close as 15 kilometers from the platform and the ship established visual contact with Greek exploration vessels, according to Anatolia.
A warship, also supported by aircraft at times, is following the Piri Reis at a distance of 10 nautical miles, Dondurur also noted. “We are constantly in touch with the warship. They ask whether we need anything and check on us frequently,” he was quoted as saying.
13 October 2011, Thursday / TODAY’S ZAMAN, ANKARA