Two fishermen lost at sea for three weeks found near Sumatra

Two fishermen lost at sea for three weeks were found early this morning by an oil tanker off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

The men, 39 year-old Hassan Rasheed from Maamigili Island in Alif Dhaalu Atoll and 32 year-old Abdulla Waheed from Maavashu Island in Laamu Atoll, went missing May 4 aboard 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.

“An oil tanker registered in the Marshall Islands, travelling to China, found the two men,” Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem told Minivan News today (May 25).

“They were 987 miles away from the Maldives, 300 miles off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia,” said Raheem.

The Coast Guard was contacted early this morning at 6:10am and spoke to Hassan Rasheed, explained Raheem.

“After so many days they are in good condition, a bit weak, but OK. It is very good news, we are happy they have been found in good health,” he added.

Raheem was unsure of the reason for the Azum dhoni to drift so far off course.

“I don’t believe their boat would have had fuel after such a long period of time, there also could have been problems with the engine,” he speculated.

“The oil tanker will be stopping in Singapore on May 28 and we’ll try to get them while it’s docked,” said Raheem.

Jaufar Rasheed, Hassan Rasheed’s brother, told local media that he spoke with Hassan today after he called from a Singaporean number.

“He called and said that they had been picked up by a Singapore boat. He could not say how the other was doing. He managed to say that the dhoni sank and the two were castaways on the sea for a long time. He then asked how his wife and child were doing and started crying. Then the call got disconnected,” Jaufar said.

Lost at sea

Earlier this week, a Maldivian national reported missing May 9 after he departed Fares-Maathoda Island in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll via dinghy was discovered by a foreign vessel 900 miles from Maldivian waters.

The MNDF confirmed Mohamed Falah, a 30 year-old man from Fares-Maathoda had been found in “good condition” by the crew of a foreign vessel travelling to Malaysia.

The MNDF recently “downgraded” search and rescue efforts, by halting aerial operations, to locate four individuals missing at sea.

Although three of the four missing men have now been found, the search continues for Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old surfer from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll.

Sammoon was reported missing around 4:30pm on May 4 after being swept away from the island by the current.

“Still we haven’t given up hope, but this person was different because he was not in a vessel,” said Raheem.

“We recovered his surfboard the first day he went missing, so he will not have anything [to stay afloat] like the others,” he noted.

“His chances are less, but you never know. Even after so long, we are still hoping for the best,” he added.

Government authorities continue to advise members of the public to take precautions during sea travel – particularly over long distances – following the “extreme weather” reported across the Maldives this month.

The MNDF Coast Guard can be contacted through the toll free number 191, 339-8898, 339-5981, or via fax 339-1665, with any information regarding Sammoon.


Three arrested following seizure of over 100 bottles of alcohol

The Maldives Police Service has arrested three people on suspicion of smuggling over 100 bottles of alcohol into Male’ on a local boat (dhoni), local media has reported.

The arrests were made after the police Drug Enforcement Department seized the alcohol shipment – mostly thought to consist of bottles of whisky – from a dhoni that  arrived in the capital yesterday (May 17).

According to Sun Online, the dhoni was suspected of being used to transport the alcohol from a safari boat that was later raided by police.

Two Maldivian nationals aged 42 and 23 were reportedly arrested during the raid. A 22 year-old foreigner was also taken into custody in connection to the seized alcohol.

Investigations are presently continuing, Sun Online has reported.


Vessel sunk and five injured after two separate boat collisions in Male’

Three boats have been damaged and another vessel sunk following two separate collisions in Male’ over the last 24 hours, authorities have confirmed.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has reported that a total of five people had received minor injuries as a result of the two separate collisions that occurred in the capital on Wednesday (January 3).  The first of these collisions occurred near the city’s T-Jetty, while the second crash occurred at the airport ferry terminal area, according to police.

Both collisions involved ferries operated by Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC), which today announced that it would not be reviewing its current operations, instead favouring increased staff training.

MTCC Executive Ismail Fariq told Minivan News that despite the incidents, there had been no changes to the schedule of its services, with all ferry operations running as “normal”.

“As we understand, the MTCC captain controlling the Hulhumale’ ferry was acting in accordance to regulation. There was no fault on our side,” Fariq said in regard to the airport ferry terminal collision.  “The traffic between these two islands is extremely high, and there is only one entrance and exit to the Hulhule’ and Hulhumale’ terminal.”

Fariq said that while there have been no changes to operations since yesterday’s collision, the company would be conducting “ongoing” sessions of additional training for captains.

The extra training was started last month following another incident involving a speedboat service operated by the MTCC.

“We are also hoping to negotiate with the city council and other public bodies to try and have a different entry point for the terminals, although this will be a long term goal of ours,” added Fariq.

An official from MTCC told local newspaper Haveeru yesterday that one of the collisions occurred yesterday when an airport ferry “backed up” while the MTCC vessel was entering the harbour.

Police reported at the time that five passengers aboard the airport ferry had to be taken to hospital following the collision. Police Spokesperson Hassan Haneef told Minivan News today (January 3) that all of the five injured passengers had now been discharged from hospital.

According to police reports, the earlier incident involved a collision between an MTCC ferry travelling from Villingili and a cargo boat carrying goods called Mihiri, causing the latter to sink.

Police confirmed today that there had been no reported injuries and that investigations into the incident were “underway”.

Speaking about the incident, Fariq said he believed poor visibility had resulted in the collision, however the company is still waiting for an official report from the police.

“If you are on the ferry, it is very difficult to see what is going in and what is coming out of the jetty. Our Villingili ferry had come over to Male’ and was waiting to come in when it collided with the cargo boat.

“There wasn’t much damage to either vessel from where they struck, so we think that the cargo boat may have also hit the rocks causing it to sink,” Fariq alleged.

Last month, an MTCC express speedboat and another vessel belonging to the Bandos Island Resort and Spa property collided, leaving a Finnish tourist dead and nine other people injured.

The incident led to the temporary suspension of an express speedboat service between Hulhumale’ and Male’ operated by the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC).

The services were restarted later the same month follow a review of guest safety procedures.


Police play down political motivation for burglaries, dhoni fire

Politicians and public figures linked to both government-aligned parties and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have raised concerns about a spate of potentially politically motivated crimes, though police urge caution in drawing early conclusions.

Early this morning, the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed that its fire team put out a blaze that badly damaged a dhoni based in the waters around Hulhumale’. The vessel has since been confirmed to belong to high-profile Jumhooee Party (JP) member Mohamed ‘Inthi’ Imthiyaz, who recently left the MDP.

Both the MNDF and the Maldives Police Service confirmed to Minivan News that they were currently investigating the cause of the blaze, stressing it was too early to tell if the incident was being treated as arson or an accident.

The fire, which saw a man hospitalised with severe burns, is the third incident involving prominent political figures to be investigated by police during the last three days.

Police have confirmed they are also looking into break-ins that occurred Saturday morning at offices belonging to Vice-President designate Waheed Deen and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Interim Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik. Both offices are based in the same building in the capital of Male’.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef said that forensic analysis of both these crime scenes and the dhoni fire were under way, but said that it was not yet possible to ascertain if there was any link between the incidents. Sub-Inspector Haneef added that findings from the cases would be cross referenced, but he did not wish to speculate if a common motivation existed between the incidents before ongoing investigations were concluded.

Dhoni fire

Addressing the dhoni fire today, vessel owner Mohamed Imthiyaz said that he was also unsure if his boat was destroyed intentionally or by an accidental fire.

However, Imthiyaz claimed that the blaze occurred after he had received threatening messages from alleged MDP supporters after making a public speech two days ago criticising the party. Imthiyaz was himself previously a member of the MDP before joining the JP, which is part of the coalition government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

“I have received [SMS] threats from people I know are MDP supporters and I have passed on their numbers to police,” he added.

Imthiyaz said he believed that public figures needed to be “careful” about their security in the current political climate, particularly considering the potential involvement of organised crime in attacks and vandalism.

Heavy Load

A spokesperson for MDP MP Reeko Moosa Manik’s Heavy Load company was in no doubt that the enterprise had itself been the target of a political attack over the weekend.

The company’s headquarters, based in Male’s Jazeera building, was broken into early Saturday morning along with the offices of the Six Senses resort group and Vice President Deen’s Bandos Island Resort – all situated at the same address.

“[The break in] was definitely politically motivated. The intruders broke in to damage and vandalise equipment like computers that could have been taken for profit. They also wrote threats all over the walls of the office,” the Heavy Duty spokesperson said.

Following the break in at Heavy Load, local media reported yesterday that several messages were left for Moosa Manik across the office. These messages reportedly read, “Moosa, you may have escaped this time but you will be killed,” and “We will vote for you next time if you put some cash next time”.


A number of attacks and cases of vandalism against political figures has been making headlines recently.

Late last month, three former ministers who served in the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed were reportedly attacked along with their wives on the street’s of Male’, leading to condemnation of the crime by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

The president has also criticised MDP supporters on his Twitter account following reports of attacks on police officers and the car of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hassan’s during the same month.

“Violence by Nasheed’s supporters keeps increasing,” the president wrote at the time.

The MDP itself moved to issue a statement following these incidents condemning attacks on police officers and calling for supporters to mantain peaceful protests against the government it alleges has come to power in a “coup d’etat” In February.

The offices of broadcaster Villa TV (VTV) were also heavily damaged in March during clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces .

VTV is owned by MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim, the leader of the Jumhoory Party (JP) – part of Dr Waheed’s government coalition.


Transport vehicles need renewable energy plan: Blue Peace

“Solar power is not the only source, and it is not enough. We have to pursue other sources as well,” said BluePeace founder Ali Rilwan about the Maldives’ recently proposed mission to cut emissions by 60 percent, using solar energy primarily.

The government’s plan was approved by the Cabinet last month, and a recent proposal from the Renewable Energy Investment Office (REIO) was submitted for crowdsourcing on the internet last week.

Rilwan called the mission admirable but incomplete. “Proposals have been made, but we haven’t seen anything in the Maldives in years,” he said. According to Rilwan, the Maldives is overlooking one of the most significant energy-consuming functions in the country: water transport.

Over 25 percent of the Maldives’ GDP is spent on diesel used for boats.

“Wetlands and vegetation absorb carbon dioxide, and the oceans are being affected by boats’ daily diesel use. But nobody has studied the specifics of carbon sinking, to calculate that 60 percent emissions reduction we need to evaluate how much needs to be done,” he elaborated. “We don’t know, we might be carbon neutral already.”

When diesel was first introduced to boats in the Maldives in the 1970s, law required that sails be kept on boats, said Rilwan. Not only was this method energy efficient, it also had cultural value.

“The sail wasn’t just carbon-neutral, it was a cultural tradition. We also used to have sailing competitions as part of our tradition. But now the sails are no longer required, although you’d think they would be a good idea for a tourist destination like the Maldives.”

Rilwan said the Ministry for Human Resources and Sports last year supported a “not so carbon friendly” motorcycle competition last year, allegedly on Hulhumale.

In January 2010, the Maldives joined 137 countries in signing the Copenhagen Accord declaring their intention to go carbon neutral by 2020. The document is not legally binding but it recognises climate change as a leading issue worldwide.

A government official said the Maldives has since focused on decarbonising the electricity sector, which accounts for over 31 percent of industrial project expenses.

Decarbonising the Maldives over the next 10 years is expected to cost the Maldives US$3-5 million.

Earlier this week, the Maldives signed the Renewable Energy through Feed-In Tariff.

The tariff is expected to reduce electricity costs by promoting a shift from oil fuel to renewable energy sources.

Rilwan praised the government’s “political will and efforts to negotiate” renewable energy in the Maldives. But he said investment in renewable energy was expensive, and that the Maldives lacks expertise.

REIO’s crowdsourcing initiative aims to improve that shortfall.

“While we are working now on the initial production planning and development we will also be looking to use local and international expertise to develop storage capacity,” said Minister for Economic Development Mahmoud Razee.

The initial plan, which is up for debate on an on-line forum, does not account for night time energy and energy storage due to its high cost. A government official said today that limiting use of solar energy to the daytime would still reduce costs significantly. Meanwhile, storage costs are expected to drop to an affordable rate in the next five to ten years.

The official added that plans addressing land transport vehicles’ energy emissions will be announced in the coming months. He noted that not only are electricity-based motorcycles and cars affordable, but Male’s small size negates the concern of going too far from a recharge station.

Although water transport energy reductions have not yet been addressed at the government level, Renewable Energy Maldives (REM) Director Hudah Ahmed said today that the company will soon be testing one of the first hybrid dhonis.

“Solar power is a viable option for the Maldives,” said Ahmed. “But we always say that energy efficiency comes before renewable energy. Consider how to do the best with what you have and what you need before you try to reinvent the system with a whole new resource.”

The REM hybrid dhoni uses a converter, and could reduce diesel consumption by 30 percent. Ahmed said the big idea is to replace current ferries and fishing boats with hybrid dhonis.

Ahmed suggested the Maldives investigate ocean thermal energy conversation (OTEC), a method of generating energy from the temperature differences between deep and shallow waters. “It isn’t commercial yet, but REM says it shouldn’t be ruled out. I think there are some areas in this country where OTEC could be useful,” said Ahmed.


Fishing dhoni runs aground

A dhoni on a sea cucumber harvesting trip ran aground on Laamu Gaaerifaru reef this morning.

According to the Maldives coast guard, the dhoni belonged to Ibrahim Ali of Raa Rasgetheemu. The accident occured at 8.50am this morning and the coast guard was contacted immediately.

A craft including police was dispatched from Laamu Madivaru and recovered the dhoni by 9:40am.

None of the six people on board were hurt, although the coastguard noted that the dhoni did not have a safety certificate nor was it carryng life jackets.