THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A Mumbai-based tug that had arrived in Vizhinjam from the Maldives three years ago has turned into a major headache for the minor port here. Knotty court cases have led to an inordinate delay in the departure of the tug. The stranded tug, MV Brahmekshara, poses a threat to the safety of the small harbour which is used by local fishing boats.
Moreover, port officers said they have already spent a significant amount on repairing a portion of the quay which was damaged by the constant pounding from the vessel’s hull.
"Hundreds of fishing boats use the harbour. So the tug is now a danger to other craft.There is always the threat of the tug slipping its mooring ropes in the heavy swells that are common in the monsoons,’’ said Anitha A Nair, port conservator, Vizhinjam.
Dragging court cases involving the crew of the tug, the bank and the owner have led to the tug ending up a liability for the busy minor port. According to port sources, wharfage and berth hire charge dues from December 2015 to December 2017 alone come to about `24 lakh.
The tug had grabbed headlines on its arrival from the Maldives in December 2015 due to a dispute between the crew and the owners, Affable Fisheries Pvt Ltd, over salary. In fact, the tug had limped into the Vizhinjam port after a two-year detention in the Maldives over charges of damaging coral reef.
Later, it again became the centre of controversy after the tug’s Chief Engineer T S Sreekumar, a Keralite from Edapally in Ernakulam district, was literally marooned aboard it for over a year.
He was involved in a dispute with the owners over salary, but he also could not leave the tug as he had no immigration clearance to disembark.At the time, the Ports Department had taken the stand that the officer cannot be cleared since that would leave the vessel without sufficient crew.