x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Freak winds blamed for sinking of oil-support ship near Doha

Five survivors have been rescued so far, and five bodies pulled from the sea as search continues for survivors.

ABU DHABI // Unusual winds were probably to blame for the sinking of a utility vessel with 35 on board near Doha, the owners and operators of the ship said yesterday. Five survivors have been rescued so far, and five bodies pulled from the sea. George Mathew, the general manager of Midgulf Offshore Ship Chartering in Dubai, said the surviving captain had braved "three big swells" amid 25-knot winds before the ship, Demas Victory, capsized about 10 nautical miles from the coast of Doha. The survivors had been either in the wheelhouse or on the deck when the vessel went over, and at least three were wearing life jackets. They are recovering in a Doha hotel.

Mr Mathew said the Demas Victory was entering Doha port when the swells began. It was about 6.30am, and the seamen were either sleeping or had just sat down for breakfast. "Due to bad weather, the port asked the captain to go to the anchorage, and anchor there for safety," he said. "In three minutes' time, the vessel fully sank." Search-and-rescue teams from the Qatar navy and the Doha Port Authority were continuing to comb the area yesterday.

Mr Mathew said they had recovered five bodies that had not yet been identified. "We have informed our crew members' families, and the Qataris are also doing whatever they can," he said. Six of the crew from Midgulf Offshore were Indians, and three were Indonesians. Also on board were 13 Indians, one Bangladeshi, and 12 Nepalese sailors working for the Doha-based HBK Power Cleaning, which chartered the ship.

The vessel provided support services to the oil industry. The 34-metre-long Demas Victory was built in 1979 but was in "perfect condition" after being fully re-serviced in Dubai in January, Mr Mathew said, adding that this was the first accident in the history of the company, which was founded in 2003.
mkwong@thenational.ae