CHENNAI: The 12-member crew of Sea Princess never thought the last voyage of the vessel would be such a scary show. As they sail from Sharjah towards Alang shipwrecking yard in Gujarat, the members are spending spine-chilling nights on the vessel as they hear ‘eerie and unusual cries’. What’s there in the vessel: the body of an Indian seaman who committed suicide on board on January 28.
The crew members have planned to disembark at Khor Fakkan in Sharjah as they believe that the ship is haunted by the ghost of the dead sailor. Seaman Bhupender, who had spent 13 months aboard the Sea Princess, allegedly killed himself after working beyond his contract period for three months. The body was kept in the meat room. It created panic among the sailors as they were scared to take food.
After three days, the body was shifted to a hospital in Sharjah for post-mortem. Following the intervention of K Sreekumar, an inspector with London-based International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the body is set to be shipped to India on Thursday.
Chennai-based Srikumar told Express that the company initially refused to send the body to India. The crew contacted Sreekumar through the ITF coordinator of Arab World. “The company said that since the ship was going to Alang in Gujarat, the body could also sail on it. The ship was sailing five knots an hour and if they sail like this it will take another 10-15 days for them to reach Alang,” said Sreekumar.
He said Mohamed Arachedi, ITF Arab World coordinator, was in touch with Indian Embassy, UAE maritime authorities and the Flag state to speed up the formalities for bringing the mortal remains of Bhupender back to India. The Indian-owned asphalt tanker had recently been sold to a scrapyard in Alang.
Meanwhile, the ordeal of the crew continued even after the body was taken to the hospital. “The crew is terrified as they claim the ship is haunted,” said Sreekumar.
A crew member said that, during the day, the ship is calm, but at night, some of the crew members claim they sighted the dead seaman and could hear his cries for help. Chief engineer of the ship Sushil Kumar is afraid to broach the subject. “It is not a rumour. It is true but I won’t be able to talk to you about it. If I talk, I won’t be able to sleep. The entire crew is scared. We will talk once we come out of the vessel,” he says. The vessel also has a Tamil sailor, and when Express wanted to talk to him, Sushil said that he was scared out of his wits.
It is learnt that the crew has refused to go on with the voyage, and Mohamed Arachedi is in talks with Sharjah port authorities so that the 12-member crew could disembark there. “The suicide of Bhupender has created severe psychological impact on the seafarers. The crew is living in a state of fear. They claim to have seen a ghostly presence on board.
A member said they hear unusual cries and wailing in the ship’s accommodation area. At night, the voice is shrill and fearful. They don’t want to stay on board. We are extending full support to them,” said Manoj Joy, Community Development Manager, Sailors Society. The 28-year-old vessel is on its last voyage as it has been deemed unfit last February.