Military refuse to board patrol boat

Engine failure causes mutiny

NRP Mondego naval patrol boat in Funchal

Local TV station RTP Madeira reports that thirteen soldiers from the naval patrol boat NRP Mondego refused service due to damage to the boat’s engine. The Navy confirms that 13 soldiers from the ship that is currently assigned to the Maritime Zone of Madeira refused to occupy their respective posts in preparation for the start of a mission, on the night of March 11. That day the ship had a failure in one of the engines.

CNN Portugal also reports that Portuguese Navy personnel refused to leave for a mission to accompany a Russian ship that passed Madeira.

The Navy is evaluating disciplinary measures, but the National Association of Sergeants hopes that there will be no retaliation for the military involved because “our leaders assume more and more missions knowing that they have fewer and fewer people and increasingly worn out means”

Thirteen soldiers from the ship assigned to the Maritime Zone of Madeira “refused to carry out” a mission on Friday due to “a breakdown in one of the patrol boat’s engines”. The mission in question was “accompaniment of a Russian ship north of Porto Santo”, but ended up not being carried out after the military refused, a source from the Navy told the Lusa press agency.
 
In a statement sent to CNN Portugal, the Portuguese Navy confirms that four sergeants and nine enlisted men on the patrol vessel Mondego “assessed that it would not be ready to sail and refused to carry out the mission”, which, says the Navy, would be “of short duration and close to the coast, with good meteo-oceanographic conditions”.

“However, some [soldiers] told the patrol boat commander that only if the mission was to save lives, they would go to sea”, the text emphasizes. According to a document drawn up by the 13 military personnel in question, to which Lusa had access, on Saturday night the patrol boat NRP Mondego received an order to “monitor a Russian ship north of Porto Santo”, at a time when forecasts meteorological data “pointed to waves of 2.5 to 3 metres”.

According to the military, the commander of the patrol boat himself “assumed, before the garrison, that he did not feel comfortable leaving with the technical limitations” of the ship. Among the various technical limitations invoked by the military was the fact that an engine and an electric power generator were inoperative. He added, according to the 13 military personnel, that the ship “does not have an adequate sewage system to store oily residues on board, which accumulate in the holds, significantly increasing the risk of fire”.

The Navy says the evaluation of a ship’s condition is not up to the military, emphasizing that “the evaluation of the priorities of the missions and state of the ship follows a well-defined and structured hierarchical line”. The Navy refers that the definition of which ships are in a position to fulfil the assigned missions “is only up to the Navy and its line hierarchical”.

The ship’s state of readiness is assessed, in the first instance, by the patrol boat’s command itself, by its hierarchical chain and by the Navy’s maintenance structure. According to the same statement, “the ship’s commander reported to the hierarchical chain that, despite the limitations mentioned, he had safe conditions to carry out the mission”, having received a ‘green light’ from the Naval Command (hierarchical chain) to abort the respective mission “in case of supervening need”.

Military refuse to board patrol boat 1
Patrulha Mondego

“The ships’ crews are trained to operate in degraded mode, being prepared to deal with the inherent risks, which is part of the military condition”, can be read in the same statement. In this way, adds the Navy, “the soldiers in question did not fulfil their military duties, they usurped functions, competencies and responsibilities not inherent to the respective posts and positions”.

The Navy points out that “the facts are still being investigated in detail and the resulting discipline and consequences will be applied accordingly”. For the National Association of Sergeants, however, this “is not a question of discipline” but of “loyalty and frontality in the face of the poor state of equipment”.

“I have absolute confidence in the professionalism of my fellow sergeants who, with years and years of navigation and deep knowledge of the equipment, would in no way turn their back on a mission just because yes, but also would not in any way jeopardize the security of their own comrades. Because we, soldiers, regardless of the rank or function we perform, have a duty of guardianship towards those who are subordinate to us”, defends António Lima Coelho, president of that association.

He adds that he hopes that “no kind of reprisal will come from this”, because, he says, this situation results from “disinvestment in the Armed Forces”. “The material is degrading, maintenance hours are not what they should be and all this is creating more and more difficulties in fulfilling the mission. On the other hand, our leaders assume more and more missions knowing that they have less and less increasingly worn out people and means”, he laments.

COVID-19 in Madeira: updates can be found in an earlier post

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7 thoughts on “Military refuse to board patrol boat”

  1. These sergants are perfectly correct in refusing to go to sea with a ship of which the seaworthyness is reduced by an engine that is out of order and a generator that is not working. The military does what it always does: it hides behind hierarchical structures. As a yachtsman, I know about the sea rules and they must always be obeyed. You cannot in any way put anyone at risk by sending men to sea with a potentially unseaworthy ship, regardless of the ship being a navy vessel, as sea laws come first. Always. Were the military says that the crew is trained to operate the ship with systems out of order, they forget to mention that this may occur in a combat situation. But any damaged ship always returns to port as soon as possible to have the damage repaired. The commanding officers are no doubt idiots sitting behind a desk feeling all-important.

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  2. Interesting the use of the term “soldiers” is that referring to sailors as in the British Navy, or more a self policing military presence with its own command structure that sails alongside Navy personnel?
    Interesting position to be in.

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  3. Peter, as a yachtsman, you are an individual with a self imposed duty to follow the “rules of the sea,” and to look after your own safety. These people have signed articles to serve their country. It doesn’t matter that those who issue the orders hide behind hierarchical structures. Can the Army or Airforce hide behind the excuse, the enemies equipment is superior to ours? This is why our Police and Armed Forces are not allowed to strike, which is what these 4 Sergeants and 9 Privates and reading of the Captains actions, are in effect doing. I have had the privilege of knowing two RSM’s and a Fleet Chief Petty Officer, the Naval equivalent, I would love to discuss this with them, now sadly gone.

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    • I see what you mean, but there are some differences to consider. First, this is not about equipment being inferior or superior, this is about lack of maintenance and/or lack of funding to carry out the necessary maintenance. Second, we are not in a combat situation. Therefore, there is no necessity to put anyone in danger by sending them out to sea with hampered ships. This is a sea law that any self-respecting navy is supposed to respect. Also, every military law has some article that states that you can and should disobey orders that are in breach of the country´s constitution. All a bit muddled, but it is not as simple as the military seems to think.

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  4. They will be charged as an act of mutiny for not carrying out a direct order from their superiors, every military person knows this, there is no wiggle room and excuse, they must carry out their orders then complain afterwards, if they are allowed to get away with this then the next mutiny will be the sea is too rough or the tea maker had gone on the blink, the Captain is God and must be obeyed. I am a yachtsman and ex serviceman so I know

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