The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinking ship nobody’s

Haldia, May 18: The partially-sunk Indonesian cargo vessel abandoned off the mouth of the Hooghly, about 120 km from here, is increasingly becoming a target of smugglers, pirates and petty thieves waiting for the official vigil to end.

Officials said today Sigitika Biru, whose hull developed a crack on way to Chittagong in Bangladesh from Porbandar in Gujarat, was “too tempting” for the marauders because it was laden with goods worth crores.

Citing international laws, shipping officials said anyone who boards an abandoned ship can stake proprietorial claim to it. “There are chances that the abandoned ship can get looted,” said the state commandant of the Indian Coast Guard, Randeep Kumar Wadhwa.

Though there was a leak in one of the ship’s holds, the cargo holds were intact, Wadhwa said. “The vessel is now anchored north-west of the main shipping channel. Three compartments of the ship are watertight. Moreover, it is not sinking totally as the depth of the sea is only seven to eight metres there.”

The ship was carrying diesel and soda ash and has its own machinery, life rafts, electronic goods, furniture and other equipment, said an official. “The coast guard’s Dornier aircraft, making rounds over the ship every two hours, are keeping the dacoits away.”

A gang from Kidderpore was said to be in the hunt.

However, the port officials here said: “We have rescued the crew on humanitarian grounds and handed them over. We have nothing to do with the ship or its crew.” Police, the coast guards, customs and other agencies “would do whatever was neccesary”, said an official.

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