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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Ship owner charged over deaths of sailors on capsized vessel

Three men were thrown into the waters after oil tanker was battered by heavy winds on Palm Deira

A ship owner has appeared in court charged with causing the deaths of three sailors after their vessel capsized during high winds in Dubai.

The victims, aged 18, 28 and 30, were thrown into the water when the oil tanker ship they were aboard was dragged by the extreme winds into a wave breaker, a rock formation used as a buffer to halt high haves caused by storms and tough weather conditions.

Dubai Court of Misdemeanours was told that the three Indian men had been trapped between the body of the vessel and the wave breaker after being thrown over board on Palm Deira on February 3 of last year.

The ship's Iranian owner, 54, is accused of causing their deaths after failing to provide the necessary safety equipment.

Three other men sustained injuries after being ordered by their captain - who was among the deceased - to jump off the ship before it overturned.

The bodies of the deceased were pulled out of the waters by coast guards the same day.

The court heard that the ship was at the centre of a legal wrangle between the accused and an Emirati woman he told prosecutors he had sold the vessel to in 2014.

The court was told that the Iranian owner filed a lawsuit against her after she did not pay the full asking price, after which a court in Dubai issued a freezing order in August 2016, preventing the vessel from entering UAE waters.

The accused said the ship was stationed five nautical miles from Deira Palm when it was pulled into UAE waters by the sheer force of the storms.

“The ship was five nautical miles away from Deira Palm and during which time I provided food, water and paid wages to all six members of the crew who were on board of the vessel since its was banned from entering the UAE,” said the owner.

He said that on the evening of February 3 he received a call from an unknown number alerting him that the ship had overturned and three crew members had died.

“I immediately called the coast guard who advised that I contact police, which I did,” he said.

He said that safety equipment, including two life boats, 20 life jackets and flares, were available on the ship.

During police questioning, the Emirati woman involved in the disputed sale said she had paid the asking price but the owner had changed his mind and refused to hand over the vessel - accusing her of not paying.

She said had filed a counter legal claim against him.

An investigation team from Dubai Maritime City Authority said in its report that the six men on board the ship, being unexperienced technicians, were not prepared to properly assess the unfolding situation and deal with it accordingly.

The report also stated that the ship’s main engine was not working.

The accused denied charges of causing death and injury when he appeared in court.

A verdict is expected later this month.