Maldives Coastguard joins training with India and Sri Lanka counterparts

Maldives Coastguard, together with their counterparts in India and Sri Lanka, have held a training program in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Defence Ministry is quoted in local media as having stated that the program – titled Trilateral Tabletop Exercise – included training on how to tackle security threats like piracy, environmental threats like oil spills and to conduct search and rescue missions.

According to them, the training programme began on Wednesday.

The training was organized after discussions held between the National Security Advisors of all three countries held in July, where it was agreed to hold similar programs biannually.


Two vessels including MNDF boat sunk near to capital

Two vessels including a coastguard boat have sunk in waters near to Male’ over the last 24 hours, while an airport ferry travelling to the capital has also run aground off Funadhoo oil jetty due to adverse weather affecting many parts of the country.

Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem confirmed that the coastguard has yesterday (August 23) received reports of a fishing vessel sinking around 14 nautical miles from Male’ as it tried to return to the capital during “bad weather”

He added that a small MNDF boat, later sent to assist the fishing vessel, also sank as a result of the harsh weather conditions – although both crews were later successfully evacuated by authorities.

According to Colonel Raheem, the MNDF has today located the sunken coastguard vessel, which was being returned to Male’ at the time of press.

Local media reported that the fishing vessel, identified as Rabeeu, had started sinking at about 6:00pm yesterday after a large wave flooded the craft’s engine area.

A total of 11 crew were on the boat at the time, according to Sun Online.

The MNDF confirmed that the coastguard had also provided assistance during a separate incident yesterday where an airport ferry travelling a short distance from Hulhule’ to Male’ ran aground after experiencing engine troubles.

Authorities said that high winds had led to the boat being swept into the reef area of Funadhoo. No serious casualties were reported.

Colonel Raheem said that the MNDF were not today advising against sea travel, despite these incidents, as conditions were reported to be calmer.

However, he stressed the importance for boat operators and members of the public to ensure all boats had sufficient safety equipment for passengers and crew.

Weather patterns

The Maldives Department of Meteorology (Met Office) today said that it had not taken the decision to issue any weather warnings over the last 24 hours, although it did expect continued heavy showers in parts of the country, specifically in southern atolls.

A Met Office spokesperson said that wet weather was expected to continue at least for the next two to three days across the country.

The department today however said it had not been informed of a tornado that was reported to have struck the island of Milandho in Shaviyani Atoll yesterday evening.

According to police, this adverse weather occurred at about 8:00pm yesterday.

No serious injuries were reported to authorities, although the tornado was found to have  damaged trees and school buildings on the island, as well as to motorcycles parked by the local medical centre, according to the police website.

The Met Office was forced to issue a temporary ‘yellow warning’ earlier this month, advising the public against travelling by sea where possible as rough weather again struck the islands.


Missing man discovered in dinghy 900 miles from Maldivian waters

A Maldivian national reported missing earlier this month after leaving the island of Fares-Maathoda in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll in a dinghy has been discovered by a foreign vessel 900 miles from Maldivian waters.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed that Mohamed Falah, a 30 year-old man from Fares-Maathoda reported missing since May 9, had been found in “good condition” by the crew of a foreign vessel travelling to Malaysia.

The announcement of Falah’s rescue comes as authorities continue to advise members of the public to take precautions during sea travel – particularly over long distances – following “extreme weather” reported across the Maldives this month.

The MNDF has said searches are continuing for three other men thought lost at sea.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem said authorities had initially been informed of Falah’s rescue through his family, before contacting the foreign vessel that discovered him.

He added that the Maldivian national was expected to arrive in Malaysia on the vessel on Saturday (May 25).

Falah’s wife Fathimath Nazeefa told local newspaper Haveeru that she spoken to her husband today, explaining that he was in “good condition” and had been well treated by the crew who rescued him.

Local media reported that Falah went missing after travelling from Fares-Maathoda to a nearby island to collect gravel needed for construction purposes.

“Necessary precautions”

Following concerns about extreme weather patterns, the Maldives Coast Guard last week published an announcement requesting “all travellers to take necessary precautionary measures before setting on their journeys due to the severe weather with heavy rain and thunderstorms… particularly in the northern and southern regions of the Maldives.”

Colonel Raheem said today that the MNDF was continuing to work with the Maldives Department of Meteorology to try and keep the public better aware of weather patterns in order to prevent further cases of vessels drifting and becoming lost in local waters.

“We cannot say that the condition with the weather is now ok, but it is certainly better at times,” he said.

Raheem said that the coastguard therefore continued to stress that anyone attempting sea travel should take precautions before a voyage.

He said that the MNDF Coast Guard therefore encouraged members of the public to contact its toll-free number 191 to get more information on suitable times for their journey.

“We welcome everyone to call the toll-free number and check the weather before they depart. We also encourage them to contact us if they are leaving on a long distance journey and also notify us when they arrive,” Raheem said.

Rescue attempts

The MNDF has said operations were continuing to locate three other men reported lost at sea this month, despite previously halting aerial search and rescue operations.

Speaking Monday (May 20), Colonel Raheem said that search and rescue operations for four men lost at sea – which at the time had included Mohamed Falah – were being downgraded.

He said at the time that although aerial operations have ceased, the reduced search efforts were being continued. An Indian Navy aircraft was previously assisting the MNDF Kurangi Helicopter with aerial search and rescue operations, but had recently departed the Maldives.

The three men still missing include Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old surfer from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll, who was reported missing around 4:30pm on May 4 after entering the ocean with a surfboard and being swept away by the current.

Two fisherman, identified as 39 year-old Hassan Rasheed from Maamigili Island in Alif Dhaalu Atoll and 32 year-old Abdulla Waheed from Maavashu Island in Laamu Atoll were also reported missing the same day along with the fishing vessel “Azum”.

The two crewmen and the 40 foot light-green fishing boat disappeared after departing from Mulak Island in Meemu Atoll en route to Maavah Island in Laamu Atoll, Sun Online reported.

With searches ongoing for the three men, Colonel Raheem said today that the coastguard had not presently received any additional reports of members of the public being lost in Maldives waters.

“There have been small incidents, but these are not major concerns,” he said.

Adverse weather

Hussein Waheed from the Maldives Department of Meteorology said extreme weather experienced over the last month was expected to improve over the next week.

“Right now we are still having rain, though we expect quite fine weather within the next three to four days,” he said.

Waheed added that adverse weather conditions this month been the result of the “early onset” of the traditionally wet South-West monsoon at the same time that a cyclone had formed in the Bay of Bengal area. The cyclone had since moved north-west towards India, the Maldives Department of Meteorology added.


Container ship “stuck” in Male’ waters, MNDF confirms

A Liberian container ship called the ‘Auguste Schulte’ has this evening become stuck within waters surrounding Male’, Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem has confirmed.

According to Colonel Raheem, the carrier ship, situated directly off the coast of the Raalhugandu area in Male’, was being assisted by MNDF coastguard vessels in order to get the boat moving.

Raheem stated that he is yet to receive any information on how the ship became stuck.


Sri Lankan fishing vessel rescues eight people from missing ‘Hihvaru’

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has said that eight missing people from the ‘Hihvaru’ vessel have been found and rescued by a Sri Lankan fishing boat.

According to the MNDF website, the ‘Hihvaru’ set sail from Male’ on November 28 at 7:00pm heading towards Huvadhu Atoll with 10 passengers aboard, including an 11 year-old boy. The boat was also loaded with goods to be taken to Huvadhu Atoll.

The MNDF said that two of the 10 passengers were Bangladeshi nationals.

The MNDF began searching for the vessel on November 29 after it was declared missing, with MNDF assistance from the Indian government.

Today the MNDF has said in a statement that the Sri Lankan boat discovered the eight men hanging from the capsised boat 290 miles off the island of Dhaandhoo in Gaa Alifu Atoll.

Local media reported that the Sri Lankan navy has informed the Maldives High Commission that the eight were rescued by the fishing vessel.

The MNDF has a live blog providing information about the incident, however has said that details will be provided at a later date.

Online newspaper ‘Sun’ today quoted a Sri Lankan navy commander as saying that the eight people rescued included three Bangladeshi men and five Maldivians.

The paper identified the Maldivians rescued as Abdulla Nasru, Mohamed Shaheem, Ali Ameez, Hassan Haleel and Shiyam Hameedh.


Protest boats blocked by coastguard

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters were blocked by coastguard vessels on Friday from disembarking from six vessels that had circled Male’.

The boats, bedecked in yellow flags, attempted to dock at the President’s jetty near Republic Square but were blocked by the coastguard.

The protesters were calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.


MNDF rescues Iranian vessel suspected hijacked

Maldives Coastguard rescued an Iranian fishing vessel in Maldivian territorial waters yesterday, discovering the crew had been deprived of water and food for several days.

Following reports of an Iranian fishing vessel which had drifted into Maldivian waters, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and coastguard began a search for the ship.

MNDF Major Abdul Raheem said the ship was found at around 4.40pm yesterday on the outskirts of Havadhu Atoll.

“They were having engine problems and drifted to the Maldives,” Major Raheem said. “We wanted to give assistance; they had no food or water.”

The twenty crew members, all of Iranian nationality, were also provided with medical assistance.

Major Raheem noted the crew were still in the Maldives. “Our government and Iran’s government are having negotiations to decide when they will be sent back.”

Of the reports that seven of the men found on the vessel were pirates who had highjacked the ship earlier, he said “we cannot say whether they are pirates. They had no identification on them.”

“We conducted a search and found no weapons in the ship,” he added.

But, Major Raheem noted, the vessel’s captain did say his crew had been taken by pirates six months ago. The ship’s owner, who is in Iran, has not had contact with the ship for six months.

The Major said there was no current investigation by the MNDF regarding the case.

MNDF Lieutenant Abdulla Ali said civil aviation craft were used for the search. He said the men were “still in that boat,” but the MNDF is providing them with food and water.

He said the negotiations with Iran were underway to send them back.

Lieutenant Ali added “we can’t say” whether seven of the men took over the ship, but confirmed that the captain of the vessel had said they were highjacked six months ago and the pirates were currently on board the ship.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


Coastguard rescues stranded Iranian vessel

Maldives Coastguard rescued an Iranian fishing vessel in Maldivian waters, reports Miadhu.

Coastguards had heard reports of an Iranian fishing vessel which drifted into Maldivian waters. Island Aviation air crafts were also used in the search.

The vessel was located 75 miles off the coast of Havadu Atoll and was found without food or water.

There were twenty crew-members on board, seven of them had previously high-jacked the boat.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed there were no weapons found on board, and negotiations are underway to send the vessel back to Iran.


Man confirmed dead after boat accident

Police have found the body of Ibrahim Shareef, 35, Kudhi Lunboamaage, L. Hithadhoo, south-east of Olhuveli reef, about 45 metres from the surface, reports Miadhu.

Shareef was reported missing after an accident between a dhoani and a speed boat last Saturday night, which occurred off the coast of Olhuveli.

The search was conducted by the Coastguards and a group of divers in the area.

Police have reported the body has been taken to L. Hithadhoo for the funeral.