Bangalore: The families of the 25 Indian crew members of the missing cargo ship MV Rezzak have been upset after receiving a letter from a legal firm claiming that the crew are dead and offering to help the families claim compensation.
The letter comes even before authorities in India, Panama (where the ship is registered), Russia (the last port of call of the ship before it went missing) or Turkey (where the ship was headed) have declared the crew “presumed dead”, a required condition for the payment of insurance claims.
Recovery Overseas, a legal firm based on Chincholi Bunder Road in Mumbai’s Malad area, has written to the families of the missing crew on 3 June, saying that they had died “due to marine hazards in ship MV Rezzak, which disappeared on 18 February.”
The letter, signed by one M.A. Sakarbagwala, said the families are “entitled to compensation under the law of tort, insurance and other contractual obligations.” A tort is any action that wrongs, damages, or injures another, and thus, forms the basis of a civil lawsuit.
“The family of the deceased is entitled to compensation. We are offering our services, should you need it,” Sakarbagwala said in the letter that asks the families to contact the firm to claim compensation. “Our fee will be 20% of the award amount only after the claimant gets the award. Court litigation expenses will be borne by us as included in our fee,” it says.
Family members say Pelican Marine Pvt. Ltd, the Mumbai-based firm that supplied crew to the missing ship, has started contacting them for no-objection certificates, or NOCs, that state the ship has sunk and the crew is dead, so that it can pursue the case with the ship’s insurer, said Uma Mohan, sister of the missing ship’s chief engineer, Mahendra Gopal Krishna Menon. “We are not willing to give such an NOC. How can Pelican Marine decide that the ship has sunk and the crew are dead?” Mohan asked.
Mohan alleged Recovery Overseas was acting on behalf of Pelican Marine. This could not be independently verified by Mint. Pelican Marine officials could not be reached for comment over the weekend.
Mohan said the families planned to sue Recovery Overseas for declaring the crew “dead” before any statutory authority could conclude so.
When contacted, Sakarbagwala said his firm was voluntarily coming forward to offer its services without any authorization from any family members of the crew.
The families of the missing crew are preparing to hold a protest in Delhi on Monday to press the government to explore the case of the missing ship from all angles, including piracy and maritime fraud.
A preliminary investigative report by the Panama Maritime Authority does not reach a firm conclusion on the status of the ship. A summary of the report was given to the media on Saturday by India’s maritime regulator, the Directorate General of Shipping, or DGS.
“We have requested the Panama maritime administration to furnish the final report of investigation upon completion,” said a DGS statement.