MV Prabhu Daya to dock at Chennai port to face probe

Clearance divers of the Navy led by Lieutenant Commander R.S. Kumar on Saturday located the wreckage of the fishing boat Don-1, which sank after colliding with a merchant vessel 15 nautical miles off Manakkodam, near Cherthala, in the early hours of Thursday.

“The divers found the wreckage lying at the bottom of the sea at 47 metres with the boat's cabin damaged and fuel still leaking. However, the hull was relatively intact. [The boat] was also enveloped [in] a maze of fishing nets, making it hazardous for the divers to attempt entering the boat in fading light. The diving effort to locate bodies of fishermen inside the boat will continue tomorrow [on Sunday],” a defence media release said.

INS Sarvekshak, a naval survey ship commanded by Capt. Adhir Arora, had on Friday detected the location of the sunken boat using its side scan sonar. By Saturday noon, the Navy's fast attack craft INS Kabra shipped a team of 10 clearance divers and specialised diving equipment such as potable recompression chambers used for deep-sea diving to the site of the accident. The deep-sea divers familiarised themselves with the layout of the sunken boat by boarding a similar boat near by before undertaking their mission. The divers would resume the operation at first light on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Singapore-flagged bulk carrier Prabhu Daya, ostensibly involved in the mishap, is expected to dock at the Chennai port on Monday after it was summoned by the Directorate-General of Shipping for further investigations. A team of officials from the Mercantile Marine Department, Kochi, is leaving for Chennai to conduct the probe. R. Kumar, Managing Director of the Mumbai-based Tolani Shipping which owns Prabhu Daya, told The Hindu over telephone that he didn't think the ship was involved in anything untoward.

“It was one of the nine vessels in the vicinity when the accident occurred. All are being called back to Indian ports of their choice,” he said, offering the company's full cooperation with the investigation.

A top defence source, however, said that among the suspect vessels, Prabhu Daya, which was off Colombo when it was summoned back, was particularly hostile and its ‘behaviour' had raised suspicion.

“ Its electronic navigation chart, a copy of which was taken by the security agencies, showed they had carried out several manoeuvres in that area. They also appeared to dodge probe,” the source said.

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