Two Indian fishermen were killed and another was reported missing after a cargo ship flying a Panama flag ripped apart their boat off Kochi in the early hours of Sunday. Police identified the deceased as Thambi Durai (55) from Kolachel in Tamil Nadu, and Rahul (22), hailing from Assam. The Navy and Coast Guard have launched a search for the missing fisherman, Modi (25), also from Assam. Eleven others who were on board the fishing vessel were rescued by a fishing boat. Two of the rescued persons have serious injuries.
Police have registered a murder case under IPC section 304 (a) and detained the ship, which would be brought to Kochi port. According to the police, fishing boat Carmel Matha, owned by Nazer of Palluruthi near Kochi, was anchored in mid-sea when it was hit by the ship, Amber, about 16 nautical miles from the Kochi coast around 2 am on Sunday. The impact reduced the boat to a mass of wood pieces, said police, adding that the fishermen shouted for help as they clutched on to the debris. Hearing the shouts for help, another fishing boat, St Antony, reached the spot in nearly half an hour. Police said the men aboard St Antony rescued eleven fishermen and fished out the two bodies. They also alerted the Navy and Coast Guard, which deployed a helicopter and INS Kalpeni to search for the missing fisherman.
The Panamanian ship had continued its sail without alerting any agencies about the mishap or starting rescue according to international maritime laws. A team of Kochi Police went to the sea and took the ship into custody. It was brought to territorial waters, which is up to 12 nautical miles off the coast. The crew of the ship reportedly told the police that the mishap hadn’t come to their notice.
Kochi Range Inspector-General P Vijayan said police have registered a case on the basis of information provided by the fishermen. “The location of the mishap and whether it took place within the territorial waters or the contiguous zone can be ascertained only after looking at scientific evidence,’’ he said.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of the deceased. This is the second incident of mid-sea collision of fishing boat and cargo ship off the Kerala coast in recent years. In 2012, three fishermen were killed when an Indian merchant ship hit a fishing vessel off the Alappuzha coast. In January 2012, two fishermen were shot dead in unprovoked firing from an Italian ship.