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Sunday, July 22, 2018

4 workers found to be illegal on board Tanker 'Rise Dignity' at Chennai Port


Kharg is a continental island in the Persian Gulf belonging to Iran. The island is located 25 km (16 mi) off the coast of Iran and 483 km (300 mi) northwest of the Strait of Hormuz. Kharg is a busy  sea port for the export of oil and extends Iranian territorial sea claims into the Persian Gulf oil fields. As refineries and traders await clarity on whether they will be able to make reductions in their crude purchases from Iran or be forced to stop buying from the OPEC producer, Chile has imported its first Iranian oil cargo in at least 16 years.

Shipping data last Friday showed the Portugal-flagged oil tanker Monte Toledo sailing through the Oman Gulf towards the Pacific port of San Vicente, in Chile. The Suezmax-class tanker, with capacity to carry 1 million barrels of oil, left Iran’s Khark port on June 2, Kallanish Energy reports. The revival of trade between Iran and Chile may pave the way for future shipments, as the Persian nation is expected to face sanctions which would dent its exports to European refineries.

For the not so well informed, oil is transported in tanker ships.  A tanker  is a ship designed to transport or store liquids or gases in bulk. Major types of tankship include the oil tanker, the chemical tanker, and gas carrier.  There are two basic types of oil tankers: crude tankers and product tankers. Crude tankers move large quantities of unrefined crude oilfrom its point of extraction to refineries.  Oil tankers are often classified by their size as well as their occupation. The size classes range from inland or coastal tankers of a few thousand metric tons of deadweight (DWT) to the mammoth ultra large crude carriers (ULCCs) of 550,000 DWT. Dead Weight Tonnage (DWT) is the measure of weight when it comes to tankers.

Now this tanker named ‘Rise Dignity’ IMO: 9221970, Panama flagged  - DWT : 160183  built in 2001 – that called up at Chennai is in Port for wrong reasons.  Pic credit: www.marinetraffic.com/  (the news below is reproduced from Times of India Chennai edition).  HS Alcina is its previous name.

When the four trainee sailors set sail on a giant oil tanker named Rise Dignity  from Khark, last month, they thought their career had finally taken off. They were to set out on a long voyage to Chennai and back carrying crude oil. The work was tough, they did the most difficult of the jobs - cleaning the tanks. The hardship did not deter them as, if they did well, they could use the experience to get promotions and better jobs. However, the dream turned sour, just a month into the journey.

The men found out that their names were not on the crew list, a gross violation of maritime and immigration rules. The names were initially on the list but were apparently deleted when a few experienced trainees joined them. But the sailors were not informed till the time the ship was about to enter Indian waters. “There was a safety meeting on board two weeks ago. It was at that time that the authorities told us that our names were not on the crew list. The captain told us that it was not a problem and that they will take care of us,” said one of the sailors who was rescued after a detailed immigration inspection when the ship docked at Chennai port on Saturday. But what frightened them was the instruction that “they should hide inside the engine room when the ship reaches a port”. This meant that their stay on board the ship was illegal and if caught at a foreign port they will be trapped and the shipping company need not pay them compensation because they did not exist on the ship as per the documents.

“I mustered courage and called up my relative when the ship was somewhere near Lakshadweep,” said Thejus from Kerala. Sources said rescuing them was a difficult task. “The cadets of the ship were moving them from one location to another to avoid detection”, said an official. Enquiries revealed that every time the team of immigration officials entered the engine room, they were moved out from another side and were taken to some other room. “It was like a cat and mouse game for almost an hour,” said a source. The sailors were also locked inside a room for a brief while with a cadet standing guard outside and meeting the immigration officials.

The striking news is 4  Indians, whose names were not included on the crew list and who were made to hide in the engine room of a Panama-registered oil tanker, were rescued at Chennai port yesterday  after one of the four men called a relative. The men included a Tamil Nadu resident.

Rise Dignity, operated by a Hong Kong-based company, docked at the city port around 10.30am. It was carrying crude oil and had arrived from the Iranian port of Khark after beginning the voyage from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. A team of immigration officials boarded the ship and began combing the entire ship the size of a 10-storey building. The vessel’s manifest, the official document listing the cargo, passengers and crew on board, had 36 crew members including two people from Pakistan. Throughout the search, deck cadets and a trainee fitter kept moving the Indians from one location to another to prevent detection. Finally, after the officials confronted him with specific information, the ship’s master presented Thejus P from Kerala, Prakash from Tamil Nadu, Suresh from Andhra Pradesh and Punit from Uttar Pradesh.

The port authorities had stopped unloading of oil briefly and the immigration authorities detained the master, while the rescued sailors are expected to be handed over to the city police for release after their statements are recorded. Chief immigration officer said, “The ship declared 36 crew members but we found four more. The Indians have their passports and they said they did not know that they were not included in the crew list.” Mails sent to Atlantic Shipping Pvt Ltd, the agent concerned, and Hong Kong-based Far East Ship Managment, which operates the vessel, did not elicit a response till the time of going to print.

Chennai Port officials said this was the first time such a case had been detected here, that too from a huge oil tanker. Sources said the masters of small cargo ships sometimes took the risk of taking people on board without adding them to the ship’s manifest the directorate general of shipping, said that he was awaiting instructions to start checking about the sailors.  K Sreekumar, inspector with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), said this was a serious crime and required a detailed probe by the immigration authorities, the mercantile marine department and police to find out whether this was rampant on other ships too. “The four sailors have not done anything wrong. They should be released. The ship should be allowed to go only after the men are compensated and their pending wages are given,” he said. Experts in the field said bringing people who were not included in the manifest was a crime and could pose security risks.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd July 2018.

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