The ordeal is finally over for young sailor Ameya Sail, who has spent a harrowing few months marooned on merchant vessel Kamal XL. The 21-year-old sailor and five of his crewmembers will finally be returning to Mumbai today. MiD DAY had reported on the crew’s travails last month (‘Stranded on nightmare ship, 36 crew beg to be rescued,’ April 4).
Ameya, a Dombivli resident, was a member of the vessel’s 36-member crew that was stranded 13 miles into the sea, near Kandla in Gujarat. Six crewmembers were brought back to the safety of the shores on a barge sent for them yesterday. Only three of them - including Ameya - were paid their pending salaries, after which they left the shipping company office near Kandla yesterday. The three others were still waiting in the office to collect their dues last evening.
One of the lucky sailors said, “We are hoping for a miracle. While we were paid, the other three members who signed off with us on Saturday have still not been paid their salary.” Besides Ameya, Major Singh of Amritsar and Dharmendra Tandel of Valsad were signed off and paid their dues, which have been pending since December 2012.
Speaking to MiD DAY from Gandhidham railway station, Ameya, hours before taking the Bhuj-Bandra Express, sounded emotional: “I am amazed to come back to land. In the last six months that I spent in the middle of the sea, I could only see water all around. Today I am pleased to be amidst a crowd. I am thankful to Forward Seafarers Union of India and MiD DAY for doing their best to get me out. I hope other crewmembers are also back home to their loved ones soon.”
Ameya had signed up for a course culminating in an exam that would elevate him to the level of a navigation watch-keeping officer. The qualifying exam took place on April 15, which Ameya could not appear for (‘13 miles of sea comes between 21-year-old sailor and his career’ April 10). “I hoped that I would be released by April 13, but that did not happen. I phoned the institute and narrated my predicament to them. The institute was kind enough to understand my situation and as a special case, they allowed me to join on April 25. I am happy that I can now join the advance course and fulfill my dream.”
Asked about his future plans, Ameya said, “I want to focus on my studies first. I will finish my exams in September, and results would be out by December. By March 2014, I will get my certificate of competency. I am sure I will get a better job as third officer in any merchant vessel, with a salary of at least Rs 40,000.”
Meanwhile Anand Sail (60), Ameya’s father who has spent a few anxious months, said, “I am eager to see my son when he returns home today. I was not revealing anything to his mother due to her poor health, but now I have narrated everything to her and she is also happy.” Asked if they are happy with Ameya’s decision to return to the perilous waters of the sea, he said, “It was his childhood dream to join the merchant navy and we will support him in nourishing his dream.”