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Navy Failed In Russian Ship Surveillance

With thirteen members of the crew, including four NCOs, refusing to leave the shore, the Portuguese navy was unable to fulfill one of its main duties; the protection of the sovereign seas, and failed to complete a surveillance mission on a Russian ship that was travelling north of Porto Santo. They refused to go to sea due to the unworthiness of the vessel following several technical faults.

Following on from this, the Navy issued a statement considering that:

The 13 operatives “did not fulfill their military duties, usurped functions, skills and responsibilities not inherent in the respective posts and positions.”

“These facts are still being determined in detail, and the resulting discipline and consequences will be applied accordingly.”

According to a document prepared by the 13 military personnel in question, last Saturday night the NRP Mondego was ordered to “monitor a Russian ship north of Porto Santo,” at a time when weather forecasts “pointed to a 2.5 to 3 metre swell.”

According to the men, the commander of the NRP Mondego himself stated that he did not feel comfortable in undertaking the mission due to the technical limitations of the ship.

Among the various technical limitations, the main problems were linked to an inoperable engine and an electric power generator. Furthermore, the ship does not have an adequate sewage system to store oily waste on board, this is stored in the ship’s holds, significantly increasing the risk of fire.”

However, according to a Navy press statement, the ship only has a problem with one engine, the surveillance operation was brief and the vessel would be sailing close to land in good conditions.

The statement went on to say that the ship’s commander reported that “despite the limitations mentioned, he had the security conditions to carry out the mission. Furthermore, he had been permitted to abort the mission due to supervenient need.

The Navy stresses that the “evaluation of the priorities of the missions and state of the ship follows a well-defined and structured hierarchical line,” and that “it is only up to the Navy, and its hierarchical line, to define which ships can comply with the assigned missions,”

Regarding the technical limitations of the NRP Mondego, the Navy notes that warships “can operate in a very degraded manner without impacting security,” since they have “very complex and very redundant systems.”

According to different news outlets, this is not the first time that naval personnel have been required to undertake active duties in a ship deemed unfit to fulfill its role.

The situation regarding the NRP Mondego was primarily due to engine problems. News reports state that the port engine is down, while the starboard engine is leaking and requires a 2,000-hour service.  One of the ship’s generators is unserviceable and has been since October, leaving the ship subject to electrical outages. The vessel is also leaking!

The NRP Mondego was first in the service of the Danish Navy – HDMS GLENTEN – P557, from February 1992 to October 2010.  She was then sold to the Portuguese Navy in October 2014, renamed NRP Mondego (P592), and entered active service on the 5th of May 2016.

This reminds me of a Jane Austen quote from Persuasion, where Captain Wentworth states that the Navy amuses itself by sending a couple of hundred men to their deaths in a ship not fit to sail.

Samantha Gannon

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