No arrest yet; marine casualty investigation in progress

As more evidence emerged to indicate that m.v. Prabhu Daya was the vessel involved in the March 1 mid-sea collision with a fishing trawler off the Kerala coast, a Kerala police officer said on Wednesday the ship was seized and would be taken in the next few days to Ambalapuzha, near Alappuzha, where the jurisdiction court is located.

“But we have not arrested anyone so far, Alappuzha Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Maheesh Kumar told The Hindu.

An official of the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) said investigators had recovered a piece of fishing net and a strand of rope that confirmed the involvement of Prabhu Daya, which flew a Singapore flag, in the collision which left three fishermen dead.

The official said the evasive action taken by the vessel and the fishing trawler on March 1 to avoid direct confrontation led to the trawler rubbing into Prabhu Daya. The point of action and wreckage was the same, and it was unlikely that those on the vessel would have felt the impact.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard has said a detailed traffic analysis by its Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, Mumbai, enabled maritime and law enforcement agencies to home in on Prabhu Daya. “Marine casualty investigation, based on track analysis and circumstantial evidence, is now in progress in Chennai and is being conducted by the Director-General of Shipping and the Kerala police,” a Coast Guard release said.

For the second day, experts continued their investigation. The probe involved underwater videography of the vessel from different angles and downloading of data from its Voyage Data Recorder (VDR). They found grey paint marks on the hull, besides recovering a piece of fishing net and a strand of rope. The fishing boat was painted grey, according to the MMD official.

“The presence of scrape marks near the engine room on the hull confirms that this vessel was involved in the collision. Two men are key witnesses to the event: the second officer of the vessel and a crew member. The second officer is undergoing treatment at Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, after a fall from the vessel. It could not be confirmed whether the fall was accidental or voluntary. The crew [member] is denying any knowledge of the incident. But he has given a statement to the Kerala police,” the official said.

He said the recovered materials would be sent for forensic examination. Data downloading from the VDR would take a day or two. The data collected from the GPS, the Automatic Identification System and the electronic chart confirmed the involvement of the vessel.

“We started the exercise around 4.30 a.m. as the sea was calm. We did underwater survey with the help of deep-sea divers. The inspection will continue on Thursday too, and thereafter, we will collate all information and submit it to the Directorate-General of Shipping…,” he said.

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