CHENNAI: The death of a sailor, who went missing from Liberian registered vessel MT Kingfisher, which was docked in Chennai Port, was mired in controversy as the ship was allowed to sail without any inquiry by Indian officials two days after the incident.
Radhakrishnan T K, who was sailing on board MT Kingfisher, an oil tanker, went missing around 4.20 am on July 28 and his body was located at Royapuram the same evening. A First Information Report was filed by the police the next day but the crew in the ship were not questioned.
The Chennai Port authorities and the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) said they were not informed about the death when the ship departed from Chennai Port on July 30.
As per the The Merchant Shipping Act of 1958, Section 358, the death of any sailor should be reported. This incident is a blatant violation of Section 358, said Manoj Joy, Chaplain Sailors Society. Director General of Shipping (DGS) Deepak Shetty told Express that any death should be reported at the MMD based in Chennai and it is their duty to conduct the investigation.
For his part, the recruiting agent of ship and director of Seaarland Management Services, Mumbai, Capt Jairam, citing the rules, said that he had informed the DGS headquarters in Mumbai, and produced the letters that were duly acknowledged by the dispatch section. But why inform Mumbai when the incident happened in Chennai? Jairam claimed he went by the rule book. If the DGS, Mumbai failed to act, it is their fault, he argued.It was also learnt from the agent that the immigration department in Chennai Port, which is not tasked to conduct the inquiry, was informed by Inchcape Shipping Services based in Chennai. “The ship was docked right in front of the MMD office, yet the agent did not inform MMD,” said Joy.
When Express contacted S Barik, principal officer of MMD, he said his office has not received any orders from the DGS to investigate the incident. “If the DGS asks us to conduct enquiry, we will do so,” he said.
The office of the DGS had in 2006 specified guidelines on how the enquiry should be conducted when a death is reported on a ship.
“The irony is we don’t know who is responsible for letting the ship sail without conducting any enquiry over the death of the sailor,” said Joy.
International Transport Workers Federation inspector K Sreekumar has taken up the issue with the shipping company and MMD, and notified the ITF headquarters in London.