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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

DG Shipping probe on: ‘Tugboat, barge shouldn’t have been there, prima facie negligence’

The DG Shipping is conducting the statutory “casualty investigation” to find who all are responsible for the incident that led to the death of 86 people.

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu | Mumbai |
Updated: May 27, 2021 10:04:30 am
INS MakarDiving teams of Navy set off Saturday to look for missing crew of barge P305, Vadaprada. (@DefPROMumbai/Twitter)

The decision by those at the helm of the P-305 accommodation barge and anchor handling tugboat Varaprada to stay back in the sea despite the warnings raised about Cyclone Tauktae pointed towards negligence, according to officials of the Directorate General of Shipping who are investigating the mishap.

“The warnings were issued well in advance for all ships to return to shore and there is a major lapse of judgement somewhere. We will find out who all were negligent. Prima facie negligence is that the tugboat and barge (Varaprada and P 305) should not have been there in the first place. The licences issued from DG Shipping are to operate but that does not mean that you risk your vessel. Just like a licence is given to operate a car but that does not mean you drive your car down a cliff,” sources in the DG Shipping department said.

The DG Shipping is conducting the statutory “casualty investigation” to find who all are responsible for the incident that led to the death of 86 people. The casualty investigation is being carried out by a team of seven officials led by a nautical advisor who is of the rank of joint secretary and they have to file the report as soon as possible.

The report will find out if there were any lapses on the part of the owner, charter, master and other concerned authorities. The report will also find out whether Varaprada was fit to sail and its captain Nagendra Kumar had taken clearance from DG Shipping to operate on the merchant navy ship. Also, records will be checked to find out if Varaprada was maintained as per international standards.

Apart from the casualty investigation by DG Shipping, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has set up a high-level committee to enquire into the incident and its report will be submitted to the ministry in a month’s time.

Varapada’s chief engineer Francis Simon, 51, had alleged that the ship was not fit for sailing. Water had entered its engine room on the fateful day due to which it went out of control, leading to the death of 11 people.

Rajesh Kumar Shahi, managing director of Glory Ship Management Private Limited, which owns Varaprada, denied the allegations while addressing a press conference on Tuesday evening. Shahi added that all licences and clearances for the ship from DG Shipping and other departments to sail were in place. Further, the company claimed that they had asked the captain to return.

5 firms summoned

The Yellow Gate police have issued summons to five companies that had sent their employees to work on barge P-305. Their statements will be recorded soon. The police refused to divulge the names of these companies.

56 bodies handed over

Until Wednesday, of the 86 people who died, the bodies of 56 people had been handed over to the families. Two bodies have been identified and after paperwork is done, they will be handed over on Thursday. The remaining 28 bodies are unidentified and DNA samples have been collected in 20 cases. Their test results are expected in the next two or three days. The work of collecting DNA samples in the other cases is under way. (Express News Service)

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