Italian Forces Board Ro-Ro by Helicopter Apprehending 15 Stowaways
The Turkish-flagged Ro-Ro cargo ship Galata Seaways resumed its voyage to France on Saturday after the Italian authorities confirmed that all the stowaways that had boarded the ship in Turkey had been apprehended. Italian media reports however are questioning the original reports that the stowaways had threatened the crew, attempted to enter the bridge, or commandeered the vessel.
The Italian authorities confirmed that the investigation is ongoing to determine the intent of the 15 people that were found aboard the vessel. They said that no charges of piracy had been filed at this time and they were hopeful of resolving the situation quickly. Three of the individuals apprehended however are likely to face charges of weapons possession. The Italian police report that two knives and one box cutter were recovered.
Turkey’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Abdulkadir Uraloglu, released a statement this morning reconstructing the events as they understood them. He confirmed the Tweet from Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto last night that the vessel was secured and safe. Because the vessel is registered in Turkey, they took the lead in the operation coordinating with the Italian authorities.
“The operation was completed successfully. The stowaways on the Turkish-flagged Galata Seaways were caught by the Italian security forces as a result of a search and disembarked. We would like to thank all our officials who contributed; I convey my best wishes to our sailors," wrote Minister Uraloglu.
Video of the boarding and search of the Galata Seaways (La Repubblica/YouTube)
The Turkish account of events is that the crew of the Galata Seaways saw two of the stowaways attempting to enter the locked engine room. When they could not enter the area, the cameras showed them rejoining other stowaways. The captain of the Galata Seaways believed that he saw two of the stowaways carrying knives.
Altering DFDS’s safety operation, they in turn contacted the Turkish authorities. The crew was ordered to lock themselves into secure locations and the captain was told to divert the ship to Naples which was the closest port.
Italy’s special forces unit, the San Marco Brigade, requested permission to board the ship from helicopters while additional navy and coast guard vessels also met up with the Galata Seaways. Approximately six hours after the first report, and with the vessel in Naples Bay, an Italian team boarded the ship from one helicopter while a second stood by to provide additional support. The heavily armed team searched the vessel reporting that the stowaways had gone into hiding. Dog teams were also put aboard the vessel to help to locate the stowaways.
Stowaways being rounded up by Italian forces (Turkish Transport Ministry released photo on Twitter)
A total of 15 people were discovered aboard, including 13 males and two females. The media is reporting nine were from Iraq, four from Syria, one from Iran, and the nationality of one who is in hospital is unknown. Some reports are saying some of the people were from Afghanistan. A pregnant woman, a person in poor health, one through to have a broken ankle, and one suffering from hypothermia have been hospitalized while the police are detaining the additional 11 people.
No additional weapons were found and they are not confirming the reports that the stowaways ever threatened the crew. The Italian media is reporting the stowaways were hiding because they feared being repatriated.
The Galata Seaways was detained overnight while the crew was interviewed. The ship departed after approximately 15 hours in Naples and is due to reach France two days behind schedule.