Engine failure causes mutiny
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”.
“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.
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