The tugboat Varaprada sank after Cyclone Tauktae hit Mumbai coast on May 17 morning, leading to the death of 11 of its 13 crew members, when it was returning to Mumbai harbour.
Francis K Simon, the chief engineer of the tugboat Varaprada and one of the two survivors said that despite the vessel being in poor shape, the “captain and the company took a chance and underestimated the power of this cyclone”.
Speaking to the media, Simon said, “Varaprada was poorly maintained and unfit to sail. I told DG Shipping officials that the tugboat was not fit for sea and asked how they had given it a licence to sail. It’s a man-made disaster that cost 11 innocent lives. I saw the crew dying. Their families are crying and asking me their whereabouts.”
Varaprada did not send out a distress signal until 5 pm on May 17, more than 12 hours after it lost its anchor and went adrift, and seven hours after it started taking in water.
“The water gradually filled in the engine room and by afternoon I told Captain Nagendra Kumar that the situation is out of control and pleaded with him to inform our company and other authorities like Indian Coast Guard and Navy. Kumar sent the distress call only at 5 pm or 5.30 pm to the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. I believe there was a delay on his part in sending the distress call,” Simon said.
Simon also mentioned that the captain could have made an effort to enter the JNPT on the night of December 16. “That would have prevented the entire incident,” he added.
“Glory (the company that owned Varaprada) ignored all safety measures,” he added.
Simon now have demanded strict action to be taken so that such an incident is not repeated.