Engineer on Bulker Detained in Smuggling Case in India Jumps into Ocean

Paradip port India
Isolated in the anchorage one of the crewmembers jumped overboard as the smuggling investigation drags on (Paradip Port Authority)

Published Jan 15, 2024 3:29 PM by The Maritime Executive


The third engineer working aboard a Vietnamese-owned bulker detained in India for the past 45 days jumped overboard Sunday in a possible suicide attempt. Indian media reports are that the 21 crewmembers have become anxious and depressed while there has been little progress in the investigation into cocaine found hidden aboard the vessel.

The vessel the mv Debi (37,000 dwt) is being held approximately three miles offshore from the western India port of Paradip. It appears the ship was moved to the anchorage on December 28 after having arrived in the port on November 29 during a trip bound for Denmark. Media reports are that the Indian authorities confiscated the crew’s cellphones and computers leaving them virtually isolated and unable to contact family at home in Vietnam.

The Express News Service reports an altercation broke out on the vessel Saturday night and that the third engineer injured his hand in the fight. On Sunday, the engineer jumped from the ship into the ocean in an apparent suicide attempt. The report says that a fellow crewmember was able to rescue the engineer and that he was taken to the Paradid Port Authority hospital. He was later transferred to a private hospital where he is reported to be in stable condition.

Indian officials are not commenting on the incident but are implying it was depression or possibly mental illness that caused the man to jump. None of the crewmembers have been arrested in the ongoing smuggling investigation.

The Debi built in 2012 is owned by a shipping company in Vietnam and has a crew of Vietnamese nationals aboard. A dockworker alerted authorities after noticing packages attached to one of the vessel’s cranes. Indian officials inspected the vessel on November 30 and again on December 1 finding bundles attached with magnets to an inaccessible area on the cranes. They discovered 22 kilos of cocaine with a reported street value of $26 million. 

The investigation is seeking to determine the destination for the drugs and where they were loaded on the ship. They were also interviewing the crewmembers to determine if any of them were involved in the smuggling operation.