The master of a small Palau-flagged vessel died late on Tuesday as his ship was underway in Greek waters north of the island of Crete.

The 55-year-old was on duty-officer shift when another crew member discovered him unconscious, Greek coastguards said in a statement.

Coastguards did not clarify where exactly on the ship the master was found.

Ship-agent sources said the deceased man was a national of Egypt. The description of the vessel he was serving on matches the 2,610-dwt Evangelia (built 1993).

The Greek-managed ship had left the port of Rethymno on Tuesday evening.

When he was found in an unconscious state, the Evangelia was sailing 21 nautical miles north-east of the Cretan port, en route to the nearby terminal of Sitia.

The master lost consciousness at some point later on Tuesday.

Following the incident, the Evangelia returned to Rethymno, where it arrived just after midnight, according to ship-positioning data. An ambulance arrived to take the master to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him dead on arrival.

Coastguards did not elaborate on the causes of the death.

Managers at Zephmar Maritime — the vessel’s listed manager in Athens — were not immediately available for comment.

Local port authorities at Rethymno ordered a formal investigation and a post-mortem, in line with standard procedure.