The Maldivian cargo ship MV Asian Express sank on Wednesday evening 300 kilometres west of Kochi, after its hull reportedly cracked below the waterline.
The ship, which was travelling to the Maldives from Pakistan carrying a cargo of sand and cement, suffered an engine failure on Tuesday evening and began drifting, reported IBN Live.
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.
The Indian coast guard subsequently evacuated all 22 crew members, including 18 Maldivians and four Indian nationals.
The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed it had received the first distress reports, and said the Maldivian crew were being transferred to Kochi following total loss of the vessel.
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.
The State Trading Organisation (STO) has announced that a 17,000 tonne shipment of aggregate and river sand will be imported to the Maldives in April.
The announcement follows recent concerns made by the company over its dwindling stocks of both materials, after India revoked its quota to export the material to the Maldives.
Managing Director of STO Shahid Ali told local media that the company is “quite sure” a 17,000 tonne shipment of aggregate and river sand will be brought in early next month.
Local media reported that the shipment will be coming from both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Construction companies in the Maldives have said they are experiencing a shortage in the supply of aggregate and river sand.
Under a special quota from the Indian government, aggregate was imported to the Maldives from India. However the quota was temporarily revoked on February 15.
Managing Director of State Trading Organisation (STO) – one of the main suppliers of construction materials – Shahid Ali, told local media on Wednesday (March 21) that the company has a limited supply of aggregate and river sand left in its storage.
“Our aggregate and river sand stock is quite low. So we are currently supplying to government projects only. We don’t really have enough for sale,” Shahid was quoted as saying in local media.
According to STO Managing Director, the company is currently carrying out talks with parties in Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh to acquire the products.