ATHENS has reportedly withdrawn from service at least 24 Greek-flagged vessels issued with false certificates by the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS), with more cases being investigated today.

The number of ships granted fake documents by the register – most of them small ferries and cruise vessels covering routes in Greece’s Aegean and Ionian seas – could reach 60, the shipping newspaper Naftemporiki said today.

Development and shipping minister Michalis Chrisohoidis has called for inspections to be carried out within the next five days on all affected ships so they can be issued with legal documents.

According to the daily newspaper To Vima, the Greek consulate in Moscow has requested that a representative of the register be sent to Greece to issue all ships affected with new, legal documents.

However, another option suggested by Chrisohoidis is that the inspections be carried out by KEEP, the government division that inspects merchant ships, Naftemporiki said.

In a statement yesterday, shadow shipping minister Yiannis Plakiotakis placed the blame for the situation on the government’s understaffing of KEEP, which resulted from the division of the former standalone shipping ministry’s powers in October 2009.