A Maldivian cargo ship that sunk of the coast of Kochi was on its final voyage, reports Indian media.
The 35 year-old Lily Enterprises vessel, MV Asian Express, was travelling from Port Md Bin Qasim in Karachi to Male when it encountered engine trouble, reportedly after being fuelled with contaminated oil.
“Captain Ahmed Shakir told coast guard officials that the fuel filled from Port Bin Qasim could have been contaminated, which caused the vessel’s turbocharger to pack up, resulting in engine shutdown,” reported Indian newspaper The Hindu.
“For two days we were in deep trouble,” Captain Ahmed Shakir told the Indian Express. As per the original schedule, we were supposed to reach Maldives by June 10,” Shakir said.
“Adding to his troubles was the two-to-three-metre vertical crack on the starboard side of the ship below waterline and failure of the communication system,” reported the Deccan Chronicle.
According to marine tracking reports, the Indian Coast Guard ship Varuna arrived to assist but was forced to abandon attempts to fix the engines because of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, with wind gusting at up to 50 kilometres an hour.
Commanding officer of the CGS Varuna, K M Arun Kumar, told the Hindu the rescue effort was also hampered by heavy swell and poor visibility.
“To top it all, Asian Express had no satellite phone and a message was relayed to it through a nearby vessel, MV Golden Shui, before we reached the area,” Kumar told the paper.
“The vessel’s agent, in the meantime, informed that tug Villa-2 which had been asked to tow the vessel to safety had not yet started from Male. In any case, the tug would not have reached the site before the morning of July 14. Meanwhile, the master informed us that the three hatches of the ship were flooded up to 10 metres after a wide crack on its starboard side.
“Soon, he said they would be abandoning the vessel and was instructed to use the life boats. However, the two lifeboats were non-operational and had to be pulled manually, even as the drifting vessel and the heavy swell posed a real danger to Varuna itself. It was already dark when every crewmember of the vessel in distress was taken on board Varuna and given food and medicines.”
Instead the coast guard evacuated all 22 crew members, including 18 Maldivians and four Indian nationals and transferred them to Kochi.
Its crew rescued, the vessel sank with its cargo of 4000 tons of cement and 2400 tons of sand.
The MV Asian Express was carrying aggregate imported from Pakistan, after a shortage began impacting the Maldives’ construction industry.
Aggregate was previously imported to the Maldives from India under a special quota, however this was temporarily revoked on February 15 amid a breakdown in the country’s relationship over the government’s eviction of Indian infrastructure giant GMR and ongoing mistreatment of Indian nationals working in the country.