Greek ships impounded over Russian maritime classifications

6th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Greece has impounded over a dozen cargo ships and ferries after an investigation found them operating under false classifications issued by a Greek office of Russia's maritime register, officials said on Tuesday.

The move comes after Russian prosecutors last month also found violations on Russia's waterways after conducting an unprecedented safety review sparked by a deadly pleasure boat disaster on the Volga River.

"There has been a problem with the classifications issued by the Russian maritime register~", Michalis Chryssohoides, minister for development and shipping, told reporters.

"We are lodging a complaint against the register with all international organisations and are suspending its contract for a month until it assumes the responsibilities and obligations stemming from the contract," the minister said.

The Greek coastguard has said it began an investigation in May after receiving anonymous complaints that false register classifications were being issued by the Russian agency's office at the Greek port of Piraeus.

The Piraeus port authority later found 16 such cases, upon which the Russian register's head office severed ties with its Piraeus office, the coastguard said.

The port's head prosecutor has ordered a separate investigation into the case, citing possible instances of forgery, bribery and money laundering.

A total of 57 Greek vessels are currently classified by the Russian register as Greece's own register has curtailed operations, Greek media said.

The Volga River boat accident killed 122 people and prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to call for an immediate inspection of all Russian tourism ships.

An initial investigation of the "Bulgaria" sinking found that the boat was unfit to sail and should have never been permitted to transport tourists on June 10.

© 2011 AFP

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