Crisis on Black Sea over wayward Turkish boat

By Serkan Demirtas

A crisis erupted on the Black Sea on Friday when a Turkish-flagged fishing boat entered the waters of the Romanian economic zone and allegedly failed to heed calls to stop.

The Romanian coast guard opened fire on the boat, eventually halting it after chasing it to the Bulgarian economic zone. The Turkish coast guard conducted a swift rescue operation, fearing the boat, owned by Ahmet Komo─člu, might sink.

“The Turkish boat did not obey the calls of the coast guard, which then tried to stop it by opening fire,” a Romanian diplomatic source told the Hürriyet Daily News. “The fishermen are safe with only one of them slightly injured. All have been taken to the port of Constanza.”

Romanian coast guard officials have detained the Turkish fishermen, Romanian sources said.

According to information the Daily News obtained from its sources, the incident occurred early Friday when the boat – intentionally or unintentionally – crossed into Romania’s exclusive economic zone for fishing purposes. The Romanian coast guard spotted the boat and called on it to stop, but the boat instead took evasive action.

The pursuit continued for a few hours and ended when the Romanian coast guard stopped the boat in the Bulgarian economic zone. Permission to pursue the boat was given by Bulgarian authorities.

The crew of the fishing boat meanwhile communicated with Turkish officials, saying their boat had been seriously hit and was at risk of sinking. After the call reached Ankara, the Turkish Foreign Ministry contacted Romanian authorities for information, with the demand of protecting the security of the Turkish fishermen. Romanian officials confirmed the incident and informed Ankara that there had been no casualties.

Turkish coast guard boats and helicopters set off to help the Turkish boat but returned to their bases when informed by Romanian officials about the state of the fishing boat.

Sources told the Daily News that the fishermen had been taken to Constanza for ongoing procedures for the boat. Although international law prohibits commercial boats from fishing in the economic zones of another country, they said such violations occur frequently.

“We are seeking information about the case. We will evaluate the situation and whether there was a need to open fire,” a Turkish diplomat told the Daily News. “We have taken all necessary measures for the security of our fishermen. We’ll continue to deal with their cases.”
Hürriyet Daily News