CHENNAI: The Madurai Bench of Madras High Court on Friday passed an interim order to detain for three weeks Panamanian flagship vessel MV Navios Venus, which collided with a mechanised boat Siju Mon-I 20 nautical miles off the Colachel coast last week injuring 17 fishermen.
"Given the strong possibility of the vessel leaving India's territorial jurisdiction unless detained, there shall be an interim direction to Director General of Shipping, Deputy Conservator Mumbai Port Trust and Commandant, Indian Coast Guard Western region to detain ship M.V.Navios Venue registered with the Panama flag and presently lying at the Port of Mumbai. The order of detention shall operate for a period of three weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order," said Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy.
He was hearing the arguments of T Mohan who was arguing on behalf of advocate P Muthusamy, who is representing P Rajamani, the owner of the mechanised boat. The ship is now at Mumbai Port. The fishermen are backed by Sailors Helpline coordinator Manoj Joy.
Rajamani has sought that the ship be detained as per sections 443 and 444 of Merchant Shipping Act for causing damage to Indian citizens and until fair and proper compensation is determined and paid to the victims. "The petitioner alleges that the vessel was operating in violation of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972. In such circumstances, the petitioner has invoked Section 443 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958 and seeks the detention of the vessel which is currently lying at the Port of Mumbai. The petitioner asserts that the ship flies with a Panama flag and, therefore, if such ship is permitted to sail beyond the territorial waters of India, the petitioner and persons injured in the collision will be left without remedy," the judge observed while passing the interim direction.
Following the interim order by the Madurai Bench, a notice was sent to detain the vessel.
The incident happened on October 22, 2021, nearly 20 nautical miles off the coast while the mechanised boat was preparing for early morning fishing. The incident resulted in the boat owner sustaining the loss of his livelihood besides posing risk to the survival of the family, submitted advocate P Muthusamy.
The advocate also submitted that the Coast Guard, which was informed about the incident while rescuing the fishermen, allowed the vessel to sail rather than asking the Master of MV Navios Venus to report to the Port of Kochi. It was submitted that the ship was negligent in navigation and flouted operational guidelines framed by the International Maritime Organisation for safe navigation with respect to safety of life at sea.
After the collision, the merchant vessel did not provide any humanitarian assistance as mandated by law, instead the ship master proceeded on his course to the next port. The collision is solely due to negligence on the part of Navios Venus and therefore the shipping company, Protection & Indemnity Insurance (P&I) club and flag state administration are liable to pay compensation to the family and boat, alleged Rajamani in his petition.
"If the ship is permitted to leave the coast of India before completion of investigation in all respects and payment of compensation to the boat owner, the fishermen will be prejudiced and put to irreparable loss and hardship. It is the duty of the coastal state to inform the families about the progress of the investigation," it was submitted before the court. The advocate also demanded seizure of all records including the voyage data recorder of the vessel including digital records to avoid any possibilities of destroying the material evidence of the collision.