VIZHINJAM:The Coast Guard and coastal police swung into action on Thursday to rescue a Maldives-bound cargo vessel which was sinking several miles off Vizhinjam.
The 11-member crew, consisting of nine Indians and two Maldivians, are safe, the Coast Guard said. The 259-tonne vessel, MV Minnath, which runs weekly cargo consignments to the island nation, was later towed back to Vizhinjam.
The Republic of Palau-flagged vessel had left Vizhinjam port for Maldives at 7 p.m. on Wednesday with 196 tonnes of vegetables. Its hull had sprung a leak some seven nautical miles into the voyage. “At 2.35 a.m. Thursday, the shipping agents, Finesse Shipping, telephoned the Coast Guard Station, Vizhinjam, saying that the ship was taking in water and the crew was in great danger,’’ Coast Guard Commander (Kerala and Mahe) T K S Chandran said.
A Coast Guard fast patrol vessel which was despatched on the rescue mission found the ship in great difficulty. MV Minnath, which is captained by Muhamad Aadhan, had taken in considerable amounts of seawater by then. The engine room was totally flooded. Efforts began soon to pump out the water and two more Coast Guard vessels were sent from Vizhinjam with more equipment. The leak, a hole of 30 mm diameter, was finally plugged with the help of divers arranged by the agent.
‘’Local fishermen and divers helped. The divers arranged by the shipping agent plugged the hole with wooden plugs,’’ Vizhinjam Coast Guard Station Commandant P K Kushwaha said. But even then, the 37.5-metre-long ship was not in a condition where it could sail back to the port under its own steam. ‘’After three hours of de-flooding, only the top part of the engine was visible,’’ Kushwaha said. In the absence of tug at the Vizhinjam port, a Coast Guard vessel did the job. Sources said that the vegetables, which constituted the cargo, will be sold off in the markets here itself. MV Minnath was docked at the port by evening, but unloading would take place only on Friday.
Coast Guard officials attributed the rupture on hull to the age of the ship. ‘’Serious questions have arisenregard ing the seaworthiness of the vessel. We will have to check who issued seaworthiness certificate to the vessel,’’ T K S Chandran said. As many as four Coast Guard vessels and an aircraft from Kochi were pressed into service for the operation.