ICG vessels rescue distressed Somali fishermen

Last Updated: Monday, July 5, 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.

PTI



First Published: Monday, July 5, 2010 - 18:06

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