Rescued sailor recalls his 'Titanic experience'

DUBAI - For eight rescued sailors of the 'Dubai Coast 3' ship, their miseries do not seem to end. The sailors, whose ship sank off Oman shores on August 4, have been left stranded in Dubai for lack of documents, including passports, which have reportedly been left in another ship.


Amira Agarib

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Published: Fri 15 Aug 2008, 1:05 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:04 PM

It all started when their ship, carrying 18 sailors and goods, left Dubai from Al Hamriya Port on July 28. It sank off Oman shores near Korea Morea, way before reaching its first destination in Somalia.

A police official told Khaleej Times that 16 sailors were rescued by other ships. The two men who died in the mishap included an Indian national, Dharmendra, and 28-year-old Sudanese national Ammar, a father of three.

While eight of the sailors were rescued by a ship sailing to Suez Canal in Egypt, the other eight were brought to Jebel Ali Port by another ship.

However, because the eight sailors have no passports or visa documents, they were not allowed to enter the UAE. They have all been packed off to Al Kawthar Dhow, 6km off Dubai shores.

Narrating his scary and painful experience to KT, Farouq Abdullah, head of the sailors team - he says he is a Sudanese - said he was yet to come out of shock of the horrific experience.

According to Abdullah, he has been working for Sudan's shipping companies for the past 18 years.

Abdullah came to the UAE on July 22. He was employed by a company owned by an Iraqi national. This company, he said, issued him a UAE visa on July 22 on board the ship which was anchored at Hamriya port in Dubai.

Cars and goods

The ship, carrying cars and goods to be shipped to Somalia and Djibouti, set sailing at 11am on July 28. After sailing for five days, the ship suffered a snag in its first engine but it was repaired within five hours. However, a little while later, a water leakage was noticed and the sailors all joined hands to flush out the water. The ship's speed, in the meantime, dropped from 8knots to 4knots, Abdullah recalled.

On August 3 at around 5pm, the ship's captain announced the ship was in turmoil. Despite this, the ship continued to sail. However, at around 5pm on August 4, the ship suffered a second default --this time in its second engine. As a result, the ship tilted 40 degrees from its normal position and soon, a quarter of the ship sank in the water.

Abdullah narrated: "The cars and other items started rolling down the dock. By midnight, the water leakage was beyond our control, with the dark and the stormy weather making it almost impossible to flush out water. At around 4am the captain announce the ship was somewhere near Korea Morea, and that it (ship) was totally out of control.

"The captain then started sending hazard signals to other ships. At this point, all the sailors, including the captain, began to wonder how to get out from the ship and use the safety equipment available in and around the ship. After some deliberations, the sailors all put on their life jackets, and decided to use the lift raft and rescue boats.

"However, the captain said we could not use the rescue boats because it was difficult to release them in the strong currents and stormy weather, so we decided to use the life raft. At the outset, nine sailors, including Burmese, Indians, an Ethiopian and a Sri Lankan were able to get down using the pilot ladder. They jumped into the waters in an attempt to reach the life raft. With great difficulty, four of them managed to climb the raft, while other five were swept to a long distance away from the raft by the strong water currents. They started struggling to find their way back to the raft.

"Meanwhile, Ammar, a Sudanese official, who was later reported missing, contacted other ships and gave the description of the ship's location. Ammar then decided to try and release the rescue boats in order enable the other sailors to reach the life raft and pick up other people. While he was trying to reach the raft, the robe broke down and he was pushed away by the huge water waves.

Rescue boats

It was after this that Abdullah decided to carry on Ammar's task - that of releasing the rescue boats.

After 25 minutes of struggle, he managed to reach the raft and was able to rescue a Burmese national, the ship's captain and a Sudanese sailor.

Meanwhile, two Sudanese nationals, a Burmese engineer and an Indian managed to reach the other side of the ship and got down through the pilot ladder to avoid the goods falling on their heads. This group swam until they reached the life raft. Luckily, a ship named Socall, which was on its way back to Suez Canal, succeeded in rescuing eight sailors. On the way, the rescued sailors spotted the body of Indian national Dharmendra, but left him after realising that he was dead. They continued their search for other survivors.

Those rescued by the ship included an Ethiopian, four Indians and three engineers from Burma. They are expected to arrive in Suez Canal on Thursday.

Recalling the rescue, Abdullah added: "Another ship too came to the scene but did not stop. Fortunately, an Irish vessel, Cape Molen, with Russian sailors on board the ship and on their way to Dubai, stopped. They rescued the other eight sailors, including the three Sudanese, the Ethiopian captain, two Indians and two Burmese.

Good treatment

"The Russian crew treated us nicely and after two days, on July 5, we reached Jebel Ali Port. But we were not allowed to enter Jebel Ali because we didn't have passports."

He said their passports were with the other rescued sailors, who are supposed to reach Suez Canal Thursday.

Abdullah said further: "We stayed for two days in the Irish ship off the Jebel Ali shores, but after it (ship) left the Dubai shores, we were brought to Port Police station. At first, the port officials were undecided what to do with us. After this, we were brought to Hamriya port for verification of our identities, and to probe if we indeed had set sail from here.

"Later, we were brought to Al Kawthar ship anchored outside Dubai shores. The ship belongs to our company."

Abdullah further said they were currently left without any financial support. "On Monday, I managed to call one of my family members in Sudan. My family had been in a state of shock since hearing of the incident. "The families of my other sailor colleagues are still not aware whether they are alive or not."

Meanwhile, an official of the Sudanese Consulate in Dubai said they had contacted the owner of the ship who confirmed that the ship, which was carrying the passports of three Sudanese nationals, would arrive in Suez Canal soon, after which their passports would be sent back to Dubai within 48 hours. The ship owner has told the Sudanese Consulate that they were ready to issue travel documents for the Sudanese nationals.

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