By Jugal R Purohit
At 4:30 am on Thursday, approximately 17 nautical miles west of Goan coast, a fishing trawler was suddenly hit by a ‘huge ship’. This incident, which has resulted into a massive rescue operation being launched in the region with one ship and helicopter from both the Navy and the Coast Guard and more to come, may have happened by a ship of the Indian Coast Guard itself.
Top sources have informed that a Board of Inquiry has already been ordered against the ship and its commanding officer and crew. This perhaps will be the first occasion when a service ship has rammed into a fishing trawler, splitting it into two and killing atleast one while five remain missing and 23 recuperate in a local Goa hospital.
A senior officer from the Coast Guard said, “The fishing community in Goa first alleged that they were rammed into by a naval ship. Subsequently, we conducted an internal probe which revealed that there was no navy ship in the area at all at the time of the incident.”
Further explaining, he added, “But there was our ship, Vaibhav, which was in the area and on that count, we have ordered a BoI.” Despite repeated attempts including text message, the Director General of the Coast Guard Vice Admiral Anurag Thapliyal did not respond.
Krishna Ambi, a crew member of the ill-fated trawler Colva-based fishing trawler, ‘Sea- Mercia’ described the incident: “The cook was preparing tea and food for the crew. Out lights were on which is when a speeding ship rammed into us. While those who were on the first half of the trawler immediately wore life jackets and ventured into the sea.” He added that the ship did not even wait for us. He said that a Panaji based trawler named Ana Maria rescued the others.
Countering this, a Coast Guard officer said, “We have primarily established that the fishing boat did not have its lights on and they were all asleep. We are investigating if there was our fault but these people are not faultless either.”
Areas off Goa, Mumbai and Mangalore, owing to the heavy traffic in merchant shipping, fishing as well as presence of the Navy and Coast Guard vessels have been witnessing maritime acccidents in the last few years. However, with this BoI it will be the first time a Coast Guard ship has been charged with such an offence.
It is a 90m long offshore Patrol Vessel being built by the Goa Shipyard Limited. Its hull is made of steel and the ship can do a variety of roles from patrolling to pollution response to anti piracy.