ICG vessels rescue distressed Somali fishermen
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Last Updated: Monday, July 05, 2010, 18:06
New Delhi: Seven Somali fishermen, who had been attacked by pirates following which their fibre boat was adrift in the high seas for over a week, were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard (CG) off Gujarat coast.

This was the third such mission carried out by the CG vessels between July 1 and 3. Earlier, they escorted an Indian merchant vessel which witnessed a mutiny by the crew that detained the captain when the ship was sailing towards Paradip in Orissa in the Bay of Bengal and rescued 11 crew members of a Taiwanese vessel that sank following a fire on board off Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

According to CG officials, the Somali fishermen were fishing at high sea on May 24 when they were attacked by Somali pirates, who manhandled two crew members and damaged the boat inboard engine.

The brigands also looted their fishing gears and communication equipment. The boat was left to drift at high sea with current and wind using handmade sail.

The crew members survived on rain water, while eating algae that grow on the boat till they were rescued by the CG officials on July 2.

The rescue took place after the Veraval CG station in Gujarat received information on July 2 from local fishermen that a 20-feet fibre boat without superstructure was adrift about 15 nautical miles off Veraval with crew on board.

The fishermen had provided the crew members with food and water, but noticed that they were not of Gujarati origin. The fishermen also noticed that the crew members at raw fish that was provided to them.

On receiving information, CG station Veraval immediately activated local fishermen's association along with marine police and state government agencies, and proceeded to investigate the matter.

The CG officials found that the seven crew members on board the fibre boat were of African origin, malnourished and weak.

They immediately towed the boat to Veraval jetty and on arrival found that the crew was in critical state, totally dehydrated and famished.

The CG officials administered first aid, fresh water and re-hydration solution to the crew members at the jetty. Later, crew members said they were Somali nationals.

After communicating the incident to Veraval Collector, the CG admitted the crew members to the government hospital under police escort. The crew and boat were handed over to marine police for further investigation.

On July 2, the CG eastern headquarters at Chennai was intimated by Hyderabad-based Madala Marine about their vessel MFV Madala-IV's captain held hostage by the crew about 36 nautical miles off Wheeler Island in Orissa.

MFV Madala-IV was heading towards Paradip and CG ship ICGS Sarojini Naidu, which was deployed immediately, effected a rendezvous with the merchant vessel the next day.

The CG ship tried to establish communication with the vessel, but there was no positive response and the vessel continued to head towards Paradip, officials said.

But since the matter was sensitive, the CG officials and men boarded the merchant vessel at an opportune moment.

It was ascertained that 16 belligerent crew members -- seven of Thai origin and nine Indians -- had disembarked off Paradip in a local fishing boat.

Local marine police station and Immigration department were alerted, but they intimated that the disembarked crew had not arrived at fishing harbour.

Joint combing operation was carried out by state agencies and the absconding crew was later apprehended at Sanghkurd village that evening.

The apprehended crew was interrogated, but police and immigration formalities were pending due to non-arrival of owner or representative of merchant vessel. At present, the merchant vessel is anchored off Paradip harbour.

In the third incident, Sri Lankan Defence Adviser in India had informed the CG headquarters on July 1 that a Taiwanese fishing vessel, Glontas-231, sank after a fire on aboard around 280 nautical miles off Port Blair.

A Sri Lankan fishing vessel, Tharusha-1, which was in the vicinity, rescued nine Indonesian and a Taiwanese crew of the fishing vessel. However one crew member was missing.

CG ordered a maritime search and rescue operation by diverting its ship ICGS Varad, which was on patrol, on the same day to search, locate and render assistance to the distressed vessel.

The weather in the area was rough with strong wind and large swell. ICGS Varad arrived at area on July 2, but could not locate the Sri Lankan fishing boat.

Coast Guard Dornier patrol aircraft was launched for sea-air coordinated search and rescue effort and the aircraft located and confirmed establishing communication with Tharusha-1.

ICGS Varad later established contact with the Lankan boat and rescued all 10 crew members of the Taiwanese vessel.

It also provided essential supply to the Lankan fishing vessel, including repair of the sea water pump at high sea, which had lead to non-operation of boat's main engine.

After repairs, the Sri Lankan fishing boat departed for home on July 3. ICGS Varad thereafter proceeded to Port Blair, where the 10 crew members of the Taiwanese boat were being questioned by CG and Immigration officials.


First Published: Monday, July 05, 2010, 18:06

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