Selfless acts of rescue on the high seas

M. Dinesh Varma

Several salvage operations by

Coast Guard and merchant vessels are now part of maritime lore

CHENNAI: Titles like Royal Pisces or Al Murtuza may not be household names in mainstream society, but they are part of fondly cited maritime lore.

The eighth annual review meeting of the National Maritime Search and Rescue Board involving top officials of the Indian Coast Guard here on Thursday brought to the fore several heart-warming stories of valour where men risked their lives to save that of others stranded on the high seas. Through 2008, the Coast Guard’s search and rescue missions saved 406 lives, including those of Indian fishermen and illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The piece de resistance, however, was the incident about 750 miles off the Kochi shoreline in Kerala where a merchant vessel, CSK Fortune, launched a long haul rescue act to save the lives of men stranded on the vessel Josef M, which underwent total machinery breakdown.

According to officers, in spite of being a merchant vessel, MV CSK Fortune ignored commercial considerations to anchor close to the stranded ship for over 23 hours to assist the Coast Guard’s rescue mission. The selfless act earned for the vessel the “Best Search and Rescue (S&R) Ship” trophy for 2008. Incidentally, the Essar Award was bagged by Coast Guard Ship Varad.

If CSK Fortune’s rescue act was of award-winning scale, another one involving the vessel Royal Pisces has now become a case study in maritime circles. Royal Pisces has carved a slice of maritime legend for itself when it launched a salvage operation on the rough seas and amid cyclonic conditions to save the lives of six crew members aboard MV Bright Star.

But for the timely help in the form of food and medicines, the six crew members would surely have succumbed to food poisoning, an officer said.

In fact, the master of the stranded vessel had suffered a mild heart attack and was transported to the nearest hospital.

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