Less than a fortnight after the Indian Coast Guard (CG) intercepted large consignment of drugs off the Gujarat coast, in a similar operation on Sunday, the agency seized a ‘suspicious fishing trawler’ about 100 km west of Alleppey in Kerala.
While the Coast Guard suspected contraband on board, the Kerala police — which is probing the case — found no drugs, weapons or explosives.
“The suspicious vessel was handed over to us by the Coast Guard on Sunday. The conduct of the crew members looked suspicious and we are ascertaining their whereabouts. Since the crew does not understand English or Hindi we will use an interpreter to help us communicate,” Director General of Police, Kerala, T P Senkumar told The Indian Express.
According to the Coast Guard, the agency received intelligence inputs from the Kerala police on July 3, following which two Coast Guard ships and a Dornier aircraft were pressed into action. In the wee hours on July 4, the boat, identified as Barooki, was taken into its custody.
“We had received an input from Kerala police…According to the input, the vessel was likely to be involved in transfer of high-value contraband. On receipt of the information, Coast Guard launched surveillance sorties. Coast Guard Ships Samar and Abhinav were also sailed from Kochi,” the agency’s press release said.
After Coast Guard handed over the vessel, the local police registered a case under Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation Act 2002.
“We have searched the vessel, but did not find any drugs. The crew claims that they are fishermen and that their boat drifted while sailing in rough weather. We are ascertaining if this indeed is the case,” Senkumar said.
However, sources in the agency claim that it is highly unlikely for a vessel to drift so far.
According to the Coast Guard, on May 25, the vessel along with 12 crew members had departed from Kalat in Iran.
“During the boat rummaging, one Thuraya communication set and a Pakistani ID card were found on the suspect boat. Further, the boat has been handed over to the local police authorities,” the release said.
However, the crew members have told the Kerala police that two Pakistani nationals on board the ship had disembarked from the vessel.
“The crew claims that the identification cards found on the vessel belong to two of its members who disembarked from the vessel mid-way.
We are probing how and why did they disembark,” Senkumar said.
Sources in the Coast Guard, however, claim that at least two members of the arrested crew could be from Pakistan’s Balochistan province.
Their backgrounds are being verified.
After the 26/11 Mumbai attack, the use of Thuraya satellite phones is prohibited in Indian waters.
The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) picks up movement of any suspicious ship and relays information to the Coast Guard and Navy.