India: Fisherman feared killed after ship rams boat off Chennai coast


A 45-year-old fisherman from city’s Kasimedu harbour is feared dead after a ship collided with a fishing boat in the early hours of Saturday. Two others, who were rescued by another fishing boat two hours later, said a cargo vessel rammed their boat about 13 nautical miles (25km) from Chennai coast.

Viji, 35, and Santhosh, 19, told police that their colleague Anandan, 45, did not surface after the three of them dived into the water just before the ship hit their boat around 4.30am. The Indian Coast Guard has identified eight vessels that passed by the region at the time and efforts are on to zero in on the ship involved in the accident.

The fishermen said they could not see any name or sign on the vessel since it was pitch dark. “We were repairing our boat which had stopped. We saw a ship at a distance and put up lights on a pole as a warning sign. After a while, we saw this gigantic vessel next to us and we all dived into the water. When we came up to hang on to the boat again after the ship had passed, there was no sign of Anandan,” Santhosh told TOI.

GPS on ships are supposed to warn sailors of boats in the vicinity, while fishing boats are instructed to have lights to indicate their location. Coast Guard sources said the accident happened between eight nautical miles and 30 nautical miles from the Chennai coast. Saturday’s accident is reminiscent of the Prabhu Daya collision, when the vessel rammed a fishing boat off Kerala coast on March 1, 2012, killing three fishermen.

“We have drawn a list of ships that were in the range around that time. There was only one ship which was in the eight-nautical mile range, which is now at the port. An underwater investigation team is looking for signs of any collision on the ship. Seven other vessels which were within 30 nautical miles are also under our radar,” said an official.

Chennai Port Trust chairman Atulya Mishra said investigators are analysing data from the vessel traffic management system (VTMS) in the signal room of Chennai port. “Satellite-based information on vessel movements at the time of the accident will give a clearer picture,” he said.

For the two survivors, it was a great escape. Santhosh, 35, who was on the boat at the time of the accident, said their boat developed a snag and stopped in the middle on the night a couple of hours after they set sail at 2am. “We fixed red and green lights on a pole which was hoisted as a warning sign. We noticed a ship at a distance when we began repairing the boat. We did not notice it for a while and later found that it had come too close, almost 50m from us. We all dived and the ship rammed our boat,” said Santhosh.

He said they surfaced after the ship passed by, and clung on to the capsized boat. “We shouted for Anandan, but he was not to be seen,” he said. “After a couple of hours, at daybreak, another fishing boat rescued us. Another boat joined us and people on the two boats searched for Anandan for three hours before returning to the shore.”

The fishermen complained that the local police refused to take their complaint. “It was only after reporters came to the scene did police accept our complaint,” said C Mani, Anandan’s neighbour at Thiruvottiyur Kuppam. He said Anandan’s wife, son and two daughters were awaiting his return.





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