Asian Express crew return to Maldives

The Maldivian crew of the MV Asian Express cargo ship, which sank off the coast of India last week, returned safely to the country yesterday (June 15), the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has confirmed.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem said today that all 18 Maldivian nationals on the ship’s 22-member crew had returned to the country “in good health”.

The MV Asian Express, a 35 year-old Lily Enterprises vessel, was travelling from Port Md Bin Qasim in Karachi to Male’ when it encountered engine trouble, reportedly after being fuelled with contaminated oil, according to Indian media reports.

In addition to engine trouble, the vessel suffered a two-to-three-metre vertical crack on its starboard side below the waterline and a failed communication system before sinking.

The ship’s owners yesterday told local media that they had decided to sell the 35 year-old ship just before the incident occurred.

“We decided to sell the boat not because of its condition, but due to its small size and high maintenance cost. An Indian living in Dubai has offered to buy it,” Ahmed Saleem, shipping manager of Apollo Holdings, was quoted as saying in Haveeru.

After its crew had been 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.