It was on the night of March 28 that Ashwin Kumar, an electrotechnical officer trainee onboard an LPG tanker vessel, last spoke with his parents through WhatsApp.
“He was very happy. He told us that he is going to get his first salary. He wanted us to check his bank account to see if the salary has come through,” Ashwin’s father, Hari Kumar, told the Indian Express. “But we didn’t have the username and password. So we sent him a message later asking him for those details. But there was no response. The messages after that didn’t get delivered,” he added.
Two days later, on the evening of March 30, Hari Kumar was visited by three officials from Anglo-Eastern Ship Management, the company that his son is employed with, at his home in Kakkanad, Kochi. “They gave me a letter saying that my son has been missing from the vessel since 8 pm local time on March 29. They noticed he was missing when he didn’t attend the morning meeting. Following shipping protocols, they immediately went back but they have not been able to track him,” a dejected Hari Kumar said. Read in Malayalam
It has now been five days since Ashwin was reported missing from MV Shahrastani, a medium-sized LPG tanker, off the coast of Mauritius and there are still no clues yet as to where he could have gone. He had boarded the vessel on March 6 from Shenzen in China which was on its way to the United States. On March 24, the ship, which had 23 crew members including Ashwin, last docked at Male, the Maldives capital.
Ashwin’s family has lodged an FIR with the Infopark police station in Kochi and have sent letters to the ministries of shipping and external affairs requesting for help from the Centre. A police official told the Indian Express that since the incident took place in international waters, the local police have limitations. “However, we have sent a detailed questionnaire to the company about the incident. Once they reply, we will continue the investigation,” the official said.
An official at the Anglo-Eastern Ship Management’s office in Kochi said the company cannot respond to queries since an investigation is underway. He said the company officials are in regular contact with Ashwin’s family and are informing them about every development.
Hari Kumar said he was not excited about his son’s career choice because of safety aspects, but didn’t deter him. “Since he is our only child, we didn’t want him to go away,” he said.