Officials of the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) are gearing to begin investigations on board m.v. Prabhu Daya to find out whether it was involved in the mid-sea collision that led to the death of three fishermen off the Kerala coast on March 1.

The vessel, flying the Singapore flag and belonging to Tolani Shipping (Singapore) Pvt. Ltd., is due to call at the Chennai port on Monday night following instructions from the Directorate-General of Shipping to divert it to the nearest port or to Kochi. The vessel aroused suspicion as it was one of the eight that were near the accident spot and had failed to respond to messages from the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.

The MMD, which is investigating the matter, has sought the permission of the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) authorities to berth the vessel, even as the latter is contemplating if it should give permission or not. The probe team is headed by Principal Officer M.P. John of MMD, Kochi.

Talking to TheHindu, an MMD official said a team of four — a nautical surveyor, a radio surveyor, an electronic expert and a ship surveyor — along with a seamen welfare officer would be involved in the exercise to examine the ship's hull. Deep divers would be engaged to conduct underwater survey, take photographs of the vessel and see whether it has any markings suggesting a scrape with the fishing boat, Don I.

Mr. John's team would rely on three pieces of electronic equipment such as voice data recorder, global positioning system and automatic identification system.

The MMD would also make use of long-range identification and tracking system, mini system and ship safety alert system. The team would interrogate the crew members.

Port's reluctance

Asked why there was hesitation to permit ‘Prabhu Daya' to be berthed at Chennai, ChPT sources said: “If it is going to be a long drawn-out legal process, who will take care of the vessel? Besides, allowing the vessel to be docked at one of the berths for long duration will affect our productivity. For all the wrong reasons, the port will be in difficulty, as there is none to protect its interest.”

MMD officials said they had reports that a second officer of the vessel was rescued near Trincomalee, in eastern Sri Lanka, by local fishermen after he jumped into the sea. The officer is also being brought to Chennai.

More In: National | News | States | Kerala