x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Search goes on for brave MV Iceberg chief officer declared as 'missing'

The ship's rescuers, the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), have labelled Dhiraj Tiwari as 'missing' in the hope he may still be found alive.

DUBAI // When the MV Iceberg was hijacked by Somali pirates in March 2010, there were 24 crew on board.

Only 22 of the crew were rescued yesterday. The other two crew members were a Yemeni man, who died in October 2010, and the chief officer, Dhiraj Tiwari.

The ship's rescuers, the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), have labelled Mr Tiwari as "missing" in the hope he may still be found alive.

"We don't know the meaning of this 'missing'," a sobbing Sunita Tiwari, the 24-year-old sister of the chief officer, said yesterday.

"We know the pirates took Dhiraj off the ship [in September] and then we didn't hear from him. Maybe he ran away, but now where is he? We just hope someone will tell us what actually happened. I want my brother to come back.

"My family's condition is very bad, both my mother and father are ill and we have been hoping for the past three years that he will come back to us."

Sunita is a college student in Nashik in western India's Maharashtra state and her 27-year-old brother had been sailing for seven years before he boarded the Iceberg.

"I hope he is somewhere in Somalia and one day he will return," said Sunita.

"I won't accept this news that he is missing. Why is this happening with Dhiraj? Why is this happening to us?"

The freed sailors spoke yesterday of how Mr Tiwari bore the brunt of the pirates' assault because he would often defend the lower-ranked sailors.

"They beat him the most. If we turned to look they would beat us more so we kept our head down," said Ganesh Mohite, an Indian seaman.

"We never saw him after September 8. And they [the pirates] kept saying they don't know where he is. We searched all over the ship. We were so scared. We think they did something to him, but we don't know what. He was like our brother and from six Indians on the boat we became five.

"He argued with the pirates for us. When they hit us, he came forward to say, 'Don't hit them'. Our hearts are still heavy because he cared for us."

rtalwar@thenational.ae