It is little over a month since six Indian sailors were killed and six others went missing in the Kerch Strait after two ships caught fire while transferring fuel.
For the families of the six missing, two of whom are from Maharashtra, this has been a period of agonising wait, as the officials of the Directorate General of Shipping are saying the six sailors are still “missing”.
On January 21, two ships, with crew members from India, Turkey and Libya, caught fire while transferring fuel in the Kerch Strait that separates Crimea and Russia.
Baban Jadhav, father of 23-year-old sailor Akshay Jadhav, who is from Bhadale village in Kolhapur district said: “This has been the most painful one month of our lives. The officials from his company, Nimbus Maritime Services, call us regularly. Or we call them sometimes, and the answer we get is the six sailors are still missing. Sometimes we feel that they are hiding things from us. We have no other option but to wait. His mother has been inconsolable after Akshay went missing,” he said.
“We have been told that many people jumped from the ship after the fire broke out. The agencies have searched the waters…but no one has been found till now,” he added.
The sailors from India, including Akshay and Rushikesh Sakpal from Vasai, had been employed on one of the ships through Nimbus Maritime Services, a company based in Mumbai.
Captain Santoshkumar Darokar, Deputy Director General (Technical) with the office of the Directorate General of Shipping, said: “We are getting regular updates from the Indian embassy in Moscow, which is getting information from the search agencies involved. As of now, all six Indian sailors are still missing. We have been told that the fire could not be brought under control as late as last week. Some sailors had jumped into the waters. As and when we receive information, it will be conveyed to the families.”
An official from the Directorate General of Shipping, however, said that chances of survival are very less.
“While the chances of there being any survivors are very low, the search has not concluded yet,” he said, on condition of anonymity.
At the time of the fire, one of the ships, Candy, was carrying 17 crew members – eight Indian and nine Turkish sailors. The other ship, Maestro, was carrying 15 crew members, including seven Indians, seven Turkish nationals and an intern from Libya.
Akshay completed a certificate course in maritime services from Chennai after passing Class XII in the science stream. His family members said he wanted to join the Navy and was planning to start preparing for the Navy recruitment process after returning.
His contract with the company was to get over only four days after the incident took place. He was planning to return home after that.