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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

another vessel in distress at Chennai - it is Prathbha Warna

At a time when Pratibha Cauvery attracts crowds to Chennai Pattinapakkam beach and continues to worry the Owners, Insurers, Port authorities and all others concerned with maritime trade – quietly another vessel is slipping in to danger – presenting more trouble for its sailing crew – who are pleading for quenching of their thirst.

It is a sister vessel of MT Prathiba Cauvery in distress – MT Pratibha Warna by name.  A vessel built by Hashijama Shipbuilding co. Ltd., Japan in 1988; classified by         Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) & Bureau Veritus (BV). Has GRT of 23926.00 (MTS); 164 M in length and Indian flagged being owned by Pratibha Shipping Company.
photo courtesy : Pratibha Shipping website

“Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink” are the oft quoted famous lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge contained in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’  - it is a  Mariner's tale of a ship  departing on its journey, driven south off course by a storm and eventually reaching Antarctica.  The words became iconic representing the woes of sailors on board ship :

Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.

After cyclone Nilam washed it ashore, Mr Shankaranarayanan, brother of Anand Mohandas, a crew at the oil tanker who died due to drowning filed petition seeking compensation of 1 crore and sought arrest of the vessel.   The Hon’ble Court directed that beached tanker Pratibha Cauvery should not be moved out of Chennai waters.

When Chennai earlier was hit by oil crisis with spiralling petrol and diesel prices and non-availability of oil, on May 29th 2012, Pratibha Warner berthed at Chennai Port carrying high speed oil.  It was brought by Indian Oil Corporation on an emergency case to ease the fuel shortage in Chennai.  It was laden with 19,162 tonnes of HSD.  Probably it made another trip going by the newsitems that the vessel has been abandoned by its owners and is stranded for almost 45 days at Chennai outer anchorage. 

There are reports the crew of the vessel are in pathetic condition having run out of ration and are starving. They have been pleading for supply of fresh water too, but the pleas have fallen in deaf ears.   One report suggests that MT Pratibha Warna, has been under court arrest at Chennai since mid-October with about 8,000 metric tonnes of motor spirit (petrol) a/c Indian Oil Corporation, and there is no further information on this.

Today’s Indian Express carries an article under the heading ‘Who will quench the thirst of Pratibha Warna crew?” -

The article makes an interesting albeit sad reading.  It states that it  was a question of who is going to own the responsibility to quench the thirst of more than 25 striking crew of Pratibha Warna, an oil tanker that had dropped anchor just outside the Chennai Port for nearly 30 days with 7,900 metric tonnes of motor spirit oil of Indian Oil Corporation.

This was yet another case where the management of Pratibha Shipping Corporation had denied wages to the crew. In protest, the sailors anchored 10 km away from the Chennai Port, retaining the cargo of Indian Oil Corporation in sea for nearly a month. With supplies gradually running out, the crew has urged the port authorities to provide them with fresh water. Even as port authorities sought a bank guarantee from the owner of the ship to provide water, there was hardly any clarity on who was responsible for providing the crew with water.

Sreekumar of International Transport Workers Federation said it was the responsibility of IOC to provide water to the crew as they had hired them. Sreekumar, who was trying to resolve the issue, said if the crew accepted the agent’s request and agreed to berth inside, IOC should provide the crew with fuel and water as they were still carrying the cargo of the company. “They have to provide water and fuel before the MSO is discharged in the port,” he reasoned.

He said the wages issue could be sorted out later. But then, the issue was whether IOC would agree to it. Port officials said IOC officials told them that they had de-hired the ship. They said they would contact the New Delhi office and inform the next course of action on whether to supply water or not. Port officials told Express that they could provide water to the crew if the Pratibha Shipping Company gave a bank guarantee. A senior port official admitted that the issue had been a big headache for the busy Chennai Port with one ship running aground and another stranded due to protest by sailors. “If they give an SOS, we will provide water,” he maintained.

With the shipping company already in soup after its 31-year-old ship M T Pratibha Cauvery ran aground during cyclone Nilam and a court case by one of the six crew members, who died while trying to reach ashore in a faulty lifeboat, staring them hard in the face, the question remained as to who would take responsibility and resolve the crisis.

Ships when viewed look majestic but there is so much of trouble especially during recessionary periods and the lives of sea-farers does not appear to be too admirable

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
7th Nov. 2012.

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