Vessel that ran aground cannot leave Chennai

The Madras High Court on Friday restrained MT Pratibha Cauvery, the ship that ran aground off Elliots Beach on Wednesday, from leaving Chennai Port.

The court order would mean the ship is ‘arrested.’ Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar passed the order on a petition seeking a direction to the Central and State governments to conduct a proper inquiry and take action against Pratibha Shipping Company Ltd., Mumbai.

It sought an injunction restraining the vessel from leaving Chennai pending disposal of the petition.

The petitioner, Sankara Narayanan of Nesil village, Vanur taluk, in Villupuram district, said his elder brother Anand Mohandoss (32) was a second engineer on the ship.

He drowned in the rough seas while attempting to swim ashore with some of his colleagues after their lifeboat capsized.

Mr. Narayanan said that after unloading oil, the vessel was in the outer anchorage of the port. It was not in a good condition and had neither fuel nor water for the crew. Food was available only once a day, he said.

His brother contacted the authorities several times and said the employees’ lives were at risk. But the authorities did not respond. The company that owned the vessel belonged to a close relative of a Union minister, Mr. Narayanan said.

Though the vessel, which had been in the seas for nearly 33 years, was not sea-worthy, it was permitted to operate. The petitioner alleged that his brother “died of starvation very soon after falling from the life boat.” This showed the company’s negligence, he said.

The petitioner’s counsel, S. Prabakaran, said if the company was allowed to move the ship from Chennai, the petitioner’s family and others would not receive any compensation.

The petitioner also sought an interim direction for inquiry into the matter by a district Judge and a compensation of Rs. 25 lakh for Mr. Mohandoss’ family.

Justice Vasanthakumar directed the petitioner’s counsel to serve notice to the additional solicitor-general and the company that owned the vessel.

The matter has been posted for November 7.

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