Collisions involving fishing boats and ships off the Kerala coast are getting too frequent for comfort. The latest in a string of such accidents occurred at 3.30 am on Tuesday. This is the eighth mid-sea collision in the past 17 months. The bodies of three fishermen have been brought ashore while nine people are feared dead. The hit-and-run occurred 23 nautical miles off Nattika, a fishing harbour located 70 km away from Kochi. Of the 14 people on board the fishing boat, only two men have been rescued.
In 2012, m v Prabhu Daya, a cargo ship carrying iron ore from Goa, rammed into a fishing boat off the Alappuzha coast killing five fishermen. In June 2017, a Panama-registered bulk carrier m v Amber L collided with a fishing boat off the Kochi coast claiming the lives of three fishermen. The ships did not bother to stop after crashing into the smaller vessels, not unlike the hit-and-run incidents that occur on state and national highways. Many of these ships are found sailing close to the coast, no doubt to keep off the radar of pirates. The fishing boats, of course, keep straying into the shipping channels, quite unmindful of the danger this poses to them.
Consider this: The Kerala coast is one of the densest shipping lanes in the region with over 200 large and medium-sized vessels sailing by on a daily basis. Many of these vessels are headed to, or out of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, the major transit point for ships plying between Europe and West Asia. Add to this traffic nearly 2,000 fishing boats operating from the coast of Kerala and you clearly have the makings of a major disaster.
Sure, even a slight violation of routes by the ships puts the lives of fishermen in danger. There is no dearth of rules, both for the big vessels and fishing boats. And yes, there will be violations of rules. But nothing can justify the cold and brutal cynicism of running down smaller vessels and abandoning the drowning fishermen in the deep sea.