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Tuesday , December 22 , 2009
 
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Apeejay ship stuck off US, crew safe

Dec. 21: A vessel owned by Calcutta’s Apeejay Shipping Ltd with an all-Indian crew of 28 got stuck off the Alaska coast yesterday after an engine failure, but the US coast guard said the sailors were safe.

“There are 28 persons on board. They are all safe,” Ray Dwyer, duty officer at the US coast guard’s Juneau Rescue Co-ordinator Center in Alaska’s Juneaum, said over the phone today.

An Apeejay group spokesperson said in Calcutta this evening that a “fair number” among the crew were from Bengal, without specifying the break-up. The official echoed the US coast guard in saying they were “all safe”.

APJ Suryavir was coming from China and was possibly headed towards Portland in the US when the engine of the bulk cargo carrier failed in bad weather.

The vessel, drifting 860km southwest of Alaska’s Adam Island tonight, was facing stormy seas and strong winds. Dwyer said the lack of cargo on board was creating balance problems.

“We have our coast guard fixed-wing C-130 (aircraft) orbiting the area and they may be able to drop some provisions to them because they had complained of being a little low on food and water,” Dwyer said.

Apeejay, however, denied that the stocks were short, saying the crew had plenty when they left China. “We have reports the weather is improving. Once it does, our crew are equipped to repair the ship and sail to the port of Kalama on the US west coast,” the spokesperson said.

The company is in touch with the Mumbai-based directorate-general of shipping and the US coast guard, the official said.

A US cargo vessel, alerted by the coast guard, was expected to reach the spot later tonight but the Suryavir crew were being advised not to shift in a hurry.

“We are hoping the Master (of Suryavir) would consider waiting at least till the conditions are better,” Wes Parker, search rescue controller of the coast guard, said.

The coast guard aircraft would again fly over the area around the time a rescue vessel arrives to drop a raft or some provisions, if needed, Parker added.

It would be dangerous for the crew to try to get onto another vessel before the weather improves. And if they enter the water, it would be very difficult to rescue them, the official said.

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