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Panama ship bangs against boat in sea off Cochin port; 3 fishermen killed, eleven escaped

The special team probing the mid-sea collision involving Panama-registered bulk carrier ‘Amber L’ is likely to book the vessel’s skipper on charges of rash navigation and culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Also, the officers are careful not to repeat the errors committed during the initial probe in the ‘Enrica Lexie’ case earlier.

Amber L had rammed fishing boat, ‘Carmel Matha’ off Puthuvype early on Sunday claiming the lives of two fishermen, with one fisherman reported missing. The police have collected details from the captain, who is a Greek national, as part of the preliminary probe.

A team led by City DCP Yatish Chandra inspected the ship, which has been detained by police, and seized the Voice Data Recorder (VDR), Voyage Chart and Log Book. However, the officers are yet to verify the authenticity of the records.

Preliminary investigations indicate the collision occurred in territorial waters and the existing laws will be applicable in the case. Hence, the police will conduct a detailed probe. Top officers from the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) and Cochin Port Trust (CPT) will also inspect the ship on Monday.

ADGP, Coastal Police, Tomin J Thachankary said Amber L’s crew had violated International Maritime Law as they fled after the incident without rescuing the fishermen. “Hence, the captain of the ship will be booked under Section 304,” he said.

 According to IG, Kochi Range, P Vijayan, the police have started a probe into the incident. “We are verifying whether the incident occurred in territorial waters or not. A team led by the Kochi City DCP has collected details from the ship. However, there have been no arrests so far,” he said.

Amber L could not be berthed at Kochi Port due to lack of sufficient draught and the port authorities have conveyed this to the police.

“A berth which can accommodate the ship is not readily available at Kochi Port. Amber L has 11.5 m draught depth. We have directed the agent of the ship to commence ‘Lightening Operation’ which is to offload the goods using the Ship's crane and shift the goods to other ships berthed outside the port. By reducing the weight it can cut short the draught depth. Then we can berth the ship. These lightening operations will take one or two days,” said a Kochi Port spokesperson.

It all happend during the early hours of Sunday when fishermen from Kanyakumari had anchored their fishing boat 20 kilometers off the Cochin port and had gone to sleep. They woke up when they were thrown into the open sea when cargo ship belonging to Panama state had banged against the boat. The boat sank in the impact of collision.

Fishermen operating in the area managed to rescue eleven persons thrown off the boat into the open sea while three of them got drowned. Since the mishap took place in Indian territorial waters, Cochin coastal police have registered a case against the captain of the vessel for culpable homicide.


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