x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Families cling on to hope missing sailors in UAE waters will be found

'If we don't hear from him soon, I'll have to postpone my marriage,' says a fiancee hopeful her husband-to-be, missing since December when their ship sank, will be found.

DUBAI // The families of three Indian sailors missing since their ship sank in UAE waters three months ago have not given up hope that their loved ones are still alive.

Anil Negi, 22, Rakesh Lingayat, 29, and Arvind Singh, 24, have all been missing since December 27 when their cargo ship, Dheema, sank in rough seas off the coast of Ajman. Two other sailors were rescued by the Dubai ports police after spending three days adrift.

“We don’t understand what has happened,” said Usha Negi, Anil’s sister, speaking from India. “We are sure he’s alive somewhere. We just don’t know where. He’s a strong and experienced sailor. We think he’s safe.”

Six crew members, all Indian,  were on board the Malaysian-flagged ship that was sailing from Ajman to Iran to load a cargo of crude oil.

After finding the two survivors –the ship’s 32-year-old captain and a 26-year-old crewman – the ports police recovered the body of one sailor.

The two men had no food or drinking water and were kept afloat by their life jackets and flotation rings. They were rescued at different locations and were both suffering from prolonged exposure to the elements.

Ms Negi said her family last saw Anil in December, shortly before he started work for the Ajman-based company that owned the Dheema.

“My wedding has been fixed for April and he took up the job so he could help with the finances. If we don’t hear from him soon, I’ll have to postpone my marriage.”

She said the family had petitioned the Indian Ministry of External Affairs to seek their intervention.

“We have written to officials but no one is saying what has happened. Everyone is silent on this.”

A representative for the company that owned the Dheema was sceptical of the men’s chances of survival.

“The issue is under the coastguard’s attention. They are still looking. But there is no possibility of them surviving at sea after three months. It will be a miracle if they are alive.”

However, he did not rule out the possibility they could have been rescued by another vessel.

“All three are highly experienced sailors. If they had died, their bodies would have surfaced somewhere. The men may have been rescued and it’s possible they have lost consciousness. A lot of questions remain unanswered.”

He said the company had not been able to locate the sunken cargo ship yet.

“We checked the location given to us by the survivors. But the ship was not there.” He added the company was willing to pay the families compensation but did not specify how much.

Madhukar Lingayat, the father of missing sailor, Rakesh, said he intends to meet local authorities in India to appeal for help.

“We want the Indian government to follow up with the UAE Government. I am planning to go to Delhi next week to meet officials.”

Mr Lingayat said the family was looking for closure.

“There are slim chances of finding them as considerable time has passed. But if UAE officials get their bodies, we want them back.” He said the family had not yet given a thought to seeking compensation.

Mr Singh’s father, Surendra, said they were not ready to give up hope.

“They were all wearing life jackets. We think they are still alive and safe,” he said.

Indian consulate officials met with the ship’s clearing agents from Ajman on Monday to discuss the plight of the missing sailors but were not available to comment on the outcome of the meeting.