Report: Turkish Navy Intervenes in EastMed Pipeline Survey

The Turkish frigate Orucreis (file image courtesy Mark Harkin / CC BY 2.0)

Published Sep 29, 2021 2:23 AM by The Maritime Executive

The Italian-operated survey vessel Nautical Geo has encountered difficulties with Turkish forces in the Eastern Mediterranean, according to Greek media. The vessel is engaged in survey operations to chart out a potential route for the proposed EastMed pipeline, an undersea gas line that would connect promising offshore fields in Israeli and Cypriot waters back to Crete, then to the Greek mainland. 

On September 16, Greece issued a Navtex alert about research operations involving Nautical Geo off Crete. The area described in the alert included waters claimed by both Greece and Turkey. The announcement drew immediate pushback from Ankara, which described the message as an "unlawful, aggressive and provocative" infringement on Turkey's continental shelf claims. 

The Nautical Geo proceeded on her mission, and according to Turkish outlet NTV, she encountered the Turkish frigate Orucreis as she approached Turkish-claimed waters. At a position about 10 nm east of Crete, Orucreis made a radio call to tell the survey vessel that "it would intervene" if she continued her course, NTV reported. AIS data provided by Pole Star shows that Nautical Geo completed a survey pattern off Zakros, Crete between the 15th and the 26th, then headed east towards Cyprus. 

On Sunday night, the Nautical Geo had a second run-in when Turkish vessels approached within half a mile, according to Ekathimerini. The interference did not appear to deter the vessel's operator: as of Tuesday, Nautical Geo was conducting a new survey pattern off the southwest coast of Cyprus.

Turkey opposes Cypriot offshore energy development, and it has vigorously criticized the pipeline project, which is being developed without Turkish or Turkish Cypriot participation. After the formal signing ceremony for EastMed in 2020, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said that "any project which aims to ignore Turkey . . . and aims to ignore Turkish Cypriots who have equal rights over the natural [resources] of the Cyprus island will not be successful."