The unprecedented exit of a Bahamas-flagged merchant vessel carrying — what the Coast Guard claimed was — coal worth $60 billion from the Mumbai Port Trust anchorage triggered a 15-hour high sea chase on Monday night.
MV Dynamic Striker, carrying coal for ISPAT Industries Limited, had come from Croatia and had anchored at the Mumbai Port Trust on October 29.
Coast Guard sources said the cargo was not unloaded because ISPAT had not made the payment till Monday. “On Monday at 3.30 pm, ISPAT Industries transferred the amount to the agents of the vessel,” said IG Coast Guards SPS Basra.
But, at 4.30 pm, the vessel set sail without unloading the cargo or informing the authorities. Despite repeated attempts, ISPAT Industries Limited did not respond to queries.
When ISPAT Industries learnt about the development, they registered a complaint with the Yellow Gate police station. The police station informed the Coast Guard, which set sail ICGS Amrit Kaur to locate the ship. A Dornier aircraft from the Coast Guard station at Daman was also pressed into action.
“The vessel was located around 7.30 pm. But it did not respond to any messages from the Dornier aircraft,” said Basra.
It later switched off its communication systems and increased speed. The Coast Guard then alerted the Navy, which diverted INS Agray to intercept it.
INS Agray intercepted the ship around 10.30 am. Though the ship was sighted, no action could be initiated, said sources.
“INS Agray, after trying to call the attention of the ship failed, fired one warning shot ahead of the bows of the ship which brought the ship to a halt and open up her communication lines,” said Captain Manohar Nambiar, chief defence spokesperson.
The merchant ship was then ordered to return to Mumbai escorted by INS Agray. DCP, Port Zone, Quaiser Khalid said, “Statements of the vessels crew members will be first taken, after which we will decide if they would be arrested.”