Guttenberg has ordered the Gorch Fock to return to Germany immediately. “I have instructed the navy chief of staff to relieve the ship’s commander as leader of the ship,” the defence minister told daily Bild am Sonntag.
Ahead of publication of the newspaper’s report on Saturday, a spokesman for the defence ministry confirmed Captain Norbert Schatz was dismissed.
An investigation by Hellmut Königshaus, the German parliamentary liaison to the military, found that the crew of the Gorch Fock rebelled after one of their comrades, 25-year-old Sarah S., fell 27 metres to her death during a climbing exercise last November.
According to the report by Königshaus, four officer cadets were accused of mutiny after members of the crew – still mourning the death of their colleague – refused to follow orders to climb the ship’s rigging.
Pending further notice, the ship will not leave the harbour in Kiel once it returns to Germany.
The Gorch Fock will be out of commission “until a commission is appointed, in cooperation with representatives of the German Bundestag, to decide the extent to which the Gorch Fock has a future as a training ship and ambassador for Germany on the world’s oceans,” Guttenberg told Bild.
According to broadcaster ARD, the ship’s captain was informed of his dismissal in a phone call. The Gorch Fock, which is currently moored in Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego Province, Argentina, is expected to set sail for Kiel on February 4.
Schatz’s predecessor, Michael Brühn, is set to take over command of the ship. In its show Nachtmagazin, ARD reported that Brühn is also a member of the investigative committee that is expected to arrive in Ushuaia next Thursday.