Bangalore: Family members of the 25 Indian crew who disappeared with cargo ship MV Rezzak in the Black Sea in February have pointed out loopholes in the Indian maritime regulator’s interim report, which says the ship has sunk and was not hijacked.
At its last known position, the ship was in a busy shipping route to have gone unnoticed if it had started sinking, and too close to the coast for the sailors to not have made it to shore even in poor weather.
“We are literally born and raised by the sea. So, it is improbable that Hussain could not swim such a short distance,” said his cousin Ibrahim Muthegebidharuge, a sailor himself with Singapore-based Eagle Ship Management Pte. Ltd, the ship management unit of crude oil tanker owner American Eagle Tankers Inc.
Muthegebidharuge Hussain was one of 10 sailors from Minicoy on board MV Rezzak. People from Minicoy, a dot of an island in the Lakshadweep archipelago, are good swimmers. Rezzak was about 10km off Turkey’s coast when it vanished, says an interim safety investigation report by R.K. Muduli, surveyor in charge and deputy director general of shipping at maritime regulator, Directorate General of Shipping (DGS).
Besides, the Black Sea is a busy route, said Neeraj Tyagi, second officer with a Singapore-based oil tanker firm and brother of Rezzak’s second officer Pankaj Tyagi. “It is impossible for a ship to sink unseen by other ships passing by,” he said.
DGS had said in a statement in April that Rezzak had “underestimated the severity of the prevailing stormy weather and sea conditions for safe navigation”. But the sailors could still have weathered the storm with safety gear such as life jackets.
According to Muduli’s report, the depth of the sea at the last known position of the ship is 79ft (about 24m). “Rezzak’s height (from keel to mast) is about 26m and should be easy to spot even if it has sunk,” Neeraj Tyagi said.
Family members say the report ruling out a hijack citing a well-guarded Turkish coast should hold against the possibility of the ship going down too. They also point to another fault in the DGS report on proper storage of cargo and ship stability.
“The ship sailed out of the Russian port on 17 February after proper loading and lashing (tying down cargo to prevent it from shifting) of cargo. The stevedore and chief foreman, who were in charge of the loading of cargo, have been loading similar cargo for a number of years. Shore personnel carried out all lashing and it was inspected by the ship personnel and certified by the ship’s master. All certified lashing materials were used,” the report said.
“This is proof...that the cargo did not shift, thereby making chances of sinking feeble from this angle,” said Tyagi.
Kiran Dhingra, who heads DGS, declined to be interviewed for this story.