Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie was shifted to the outer harbour from the Cochin Oil Terminal (COT) on Monday after the police took two of the marines on board the vessel into custody as part of their investigation into the killing of two fishermen off the Alappuzha coast last week.

Personnel from the marine department of the port steered the vessel off anchor with captain Umberto Vittelli and 24 crew members, including 19 Indians, on board. The Harbour police had given permission to shift the vessel following the arrest of the marines on Sunday.

The vessel is now anchored 6.5 nautical miles off Fort Kochi and will be constantly monitored by the Coast Guard and be under the watchful eyes of the Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) of the Cochin Port Trust (CPT).

The shifting of the vessel comes as a relief for Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd's Kochi refinery as movement of cargo from the refinery has been affected owing to the presence of the Italian vessel at COT. The Italian vessel had been brought to COT late Thursday night.

CPT sources said they would recover about Rs.20 lakh towards the expenditure involved in the detention of the vessel. The money will be recovered under the heads ‘berth hire charges' and ‘port dues' like ‘cost of pilotage.'

The Italian vessel has appointed an agency in Kochi and is expected to sail off Kochi once it gets clearance from the agencies investigating the killing of the fishermen.

Meanwhile, fishermen who planned to lay siege to the Cochin port on Tuesday to press their demand for exemplary punishment of the Italian marines called off their action on a request from the police authorities. Charles George, convener of the Fishermen's Coordination Committee, which planned the stir, said the fishermen had plans to use traditional fishing boats to blockade the entrance to the port's harbour.

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