The Indian Coast Guard saved merchant vessel MV Khalijia-3, with 28 members of crew including six foreign nationals on board, from sinking about eight miles from Mumbai’s coast in a late night operation on Sunday.
The crewmembers standing at the rear end of the 25-year-old vessel were rescued. The vessel was on its way to Mumbai Port Trust to unload steel coils from China, sources in the Indian Navy said.
The defence spokesperson said the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) received a distress call from Quadrant Maritime Private limited at 8.50 pm on Sunday. The caller informed the MRCC about excessive flooding in the vessel and sought assistance.
A fast patrol vessel of the Coast Guard, ICGS Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, with repair facilities, submersible pumps and divers was sent to help the vessel in distress. An advance offshore patrol vessel with pollution response equipment was also mobilised.
Indian Navy sources said the front of the vessel hit the bottom of the sea causing water to gush in at an alarming rate of 100 tonnes an hour.
The rescue team plugged the hole in the ship and towed it to the inner anchorage of the Mumbai Port Trust. Experts are working to salvage the ship.
“I am happy to be here safe,” said Sarfaraz Bhomban, a member of crew. “Our captain gave a distress call and within a couple of hours help reached us,” said another sailor requesting not to be identified. “Although the situation was not life threatening, we are happy to be alive.”
Arun Singh, operations commandant, Coast Guard, said this was not the first time the vessel had run into trouble. On Friday, the vessel was drifting towards shallow waters as its anchorage was dragging. The Mumbai Port Trust had called it back and asked it to dock.
“Due to the dragging, the vessel had developed a crack. On Sunday, when it left the dock, the captain, Lakshman Dubey, realised that water was seeping in through the crack and sent out a distress call,” Singh said.
The Coast Guard will now carry out an inquiry into the case. The Yellow Gate police recorded the statements of the crew on Monday evening.