Four Ghana sailors who were stranded on a grounded cargo ship barely two nautical miles off Mumbai for a whopping 66 months have been finally rescued and have flown home.
The four seamen survived without electricity and on little food, water and medicines aboard the ship, Magnum V, which got grounded near the tiny Butcher Island off Mumbai.
They flew home on Wednesday night, an official said on Thursday.
Abakah Francis, 60, Issah Sawudu, 49, Idriss Mohammed, 48, and Mohammad Mustapha, 38, shared one mobile phone to maintain basic communication with officials of the National Union of Seafarers of India and the ship’s head office in Sierra Leone.
The four were not paid salaries during most of the period they were stranded by the ship’s owners.
The sailors have now filed a case to sell off the vessel to recover their accumulated dues of around $237,000 since January 2012.
Ironically, the stranded vessel was visible to tourists bound for the Elephanta Island or Raigad and others. But authorities took no action to rescue them.
After a long ordeal in which they were helped by NUSI and honorary services of maritime lawyer Abhishek Khare, Justice S.J. Kathawalla of the Bombay High Court allowed them to be rescued on Wednesday afternoon.
“The NUSI arranged for their airfare and other formalities. They were taken on a waiting launch to Mumbai and driven straight to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport to catch to flight late last night,” NUSI’s International Transport Federation Inspector Lius Gomes told IANS.
In the intervening period, Gomes said they lived on doles given by Mumbai Police, fisherfolk, the NUSI and sparse rations provided by the ship owners. This was barely sufficient for them to survive.
“However, being tough like all seafarers, they survived for 66 months without contracting any major diseases or illness,” Gomes said.
Recounting their ordeal, Gomes said that around June 2011 their vessel, owned by a Sierra Leone-based shipping company, developed a major snag and was grounded while sailing to Sri Lanka.
Initially, there were 19 crewmen, of which 15 left over the next few months and these four were left behind to man the grounded vessel.
Last month, Justice Kathawalla ordered the vessel to be seized, but monsoon winds and waves pushed the ship one nautical mile closer to the shoreline and it was stuck in shallow waters, making it difficult to sail out.
“We have initiated the proceedings for the sale of the ship as scrap, the proceeds of which will go to pay the outstanding salaries and dues of the four Ghanaian seamen,” Gomes said.