Police Detain Tanker's Crew for Suspected Hit and Run
Indian authorities have concluded that the VLCC Desh Shakti was likely the vessel involved in a hit-and-run collision with a fishing boat off Kerala last week. The two crewmembers who had the watch at the time of the incident have been detained, along with the vessel's master.
In the early hours of August 7, a merchant vessel ran down the fishing boat Oceanic off the coast of Kochi, India, killing at least four people, injuring two and leaving eight missing. According to a survivor, the ship did not stop to render assistance.
The Shakti was one of four suspect vessels that were in the vicinity at the time of the collision. In the hours after the incident, the tanker continued on her commercial voyage to the Middle East, but Indian authorities directed her to berth in Mangalore Port on August 9 for an investigation. Divers found scratches on her hull, and paint samples reportedly suggested contact with the fishing vessel. Investigators considered AIS records, the ship's charts and logs, the estimated location of the collision, and the results of the dive inspection in reaching their preliminary finding.
In a statement, the South Asian Fishermen Fraternity called on prosecutors to lodge criminal charges against the Desh Shakti's master for allegedly leaving the scene without providing assistance. In addition, the group called for compensation for the victims families' from the government and the shipowner, the Shipping Corporation of India.
The search for the missing and for the wreck of the Oceanic continues. Based on side scan sonar results from the survey vessel INS Sutlej, the Indian Navy believes that it has located the boat about three nm from the collision site. Monsoon-season surface conditions could hamper operations to investigate the wreck, but the service has dispatched the dive support ship INS Nireekshak to try to reach the target site with an ROV. Authorities believe that many of the missing crewmembers may have been trapped within the wreck, as most of the fishermen were asleep at the time of the collision.