Call this a series of unfortunate events, at sea. After three months of being stranded on a dredger vessel, imagine the surprise of 36 crew members when their desperate pleas for help were met by the supply of over 10,800 litres of diesel worth nearly Rs 8 lakh—but not food and other provisions.
Over the past two days, the diesel was pumped into the dredger vessel Kamal XI, whose engines are dismantled. The decision came after MiD DAY exposed the plight of the 36 crew’s members on April 14, 2013 (Stranded on nightmare ship, 36 crew beg to be rescued). The vessel is owned by Jaisu Shipping Co Pvt Ltd, Kandla, Gujarat. The quantity of the diesel has only raised concern and fear in the minds of the crew marooned on the vessel.
Speaking to Sunday MiDDAY from the stranded vessel, Captain Mohana Pillai (60) said, “The dredger vessel is lying 14 nautical miles away at sea, on the outer anchorage at the dumping ground.”
He added, “Over the past two days (after the MiD DAY expose) and subsequent coverage by television channels, the shipping company sent fresh water and nearly 800 litres of diesel. However, they haven’t sent us any food or other provisions. On Saturday, around 12.30 pm, the company accountant came to our barge and handed over a month’s salary to us. He also pumped in another 10,000 liters of diesel before he left the vessel at 2.30 pm.”
According to Captian Pillai, “Since January 2013, we stopped all dredging work after the engine developed a technical snag. Initially some technicians did some to repair the engine, but they dismantled both engines, which restricted the movement of the vessel, which is now anchored. Thereafter, only 200 to 400 litres was supplied occasionally, which was used to keep the portable generator on. The main generator, which requires approximate 1,200 litres of diesel every day, is always switched off.”
Pillai and his crew are worried and finding it difficult to ascertain the reason for the supply of such a large quantity of diesel on board. “We fear that the anchored vessel will be dragged in any direction of wind and sea current and we will be helpless. Even the life-saving and firefighting appliances on board have expired because the company did not carry out safety inspections. The crew is very anxious now.”
Other maritime experts expressed similar views. An expert, on the condition of anonymity, said, “In such cases, the priority is to arrange for supply of provisions and fresh water. Also, efforts must be made to get the crew back to the shore. It is surprising that such large quantity of diesel was put in a vessel which is non-functional.”
“We are trapped. If we are in danger, there is no vessel or ship within a range of five to six nautical miles from where we are anchored. We prefer to die united rather than allow the shipping company to dupe us of our hard-earned money,” the captain said.
Reacting to MiDDAY expose on April 4, 2013, MP Priya Dutt said, “I have spoken to the captain of the vessel and have requested the Union Shipping Minister GK Vasan to urgently intervene and help save the lives stranded on sea.”
Meanwhile, in spite of repeated attempts, members of the Jaisu Shipping company officials could not be reached for comment.