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  • Terror angle surfaces as Samudrika-10, which had sailed with 14 crew members, sank with 17 on board

Mumbai, Jul 17: The sinking of the ONGC vessel Samudrika-10 gets curiouser and curiouser. While the ship sank on July 9 with 17 crew members on board, the ship’s manifesto clearly indicates that there were only 14 members, not 17.

So who are the three mystery men and from where and when did they board the ship?

With the state-owned ONGC on the hit-list of the Pakistan Navy and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the mysterious presence of the three men indicates a major security threat to the oil major’s 200-odd installations located off the Mumbai coast.

A high-level inquiry ordered by ONGC has confirmed the presence of the three mystery men on board their vessel. Efforts are on to find out how the unidentified trio landed in the highly sensitive offshore zone.

ONGC’s Deputy General Manager (security) Kuppu Swamy told MiD DAY that his team of officers is still investigating how the three men reached offshore. Two persons have been questioned so far, but they are still clueless, Swamy said.

Highly sensitive

ONGC’s offshore projects are highly sensitive. Everybody is thoroughly screened before being cleared for departure.

CISF men are responsible for guarding the entry and exit to ONGC’s base at Nhava Sheva. Manning the perimeter of the docks is part of their job.

DIG of CISF, Ajay Bhatnagar, said his men were in no way responsible for the lapse.

“There are hundreds of ships sailing out of Nhava Sheva base. CISF is not supposed to check the manifesto of all the vessels. Samudrika-10 had 14 members on board when she sailed from Nhava Sheva. We don’t know where the three men got on board,” said Bhatnagar.

Marine attacks

A copy of the intelligence report with this newspaper highlights how the Pakistan Navy and the ISI have trained more than 500 Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizb-ul Mujahedeens to carry out sea-borne attacks along the west coast of the country.

The functionaries have undergone 18 months of training on navigational techniques and underwater attacks, says the report.

Docks, airports and ONGC installations are apparently on the hit-list of the trained terrorists.

The Pakistani navy is also in possession of 83 fishing boats, which could be used for sea borne attacks, a senior Coast Guard official said.

Return folder

The Director General of Shipping has ordered 20-odd offshore vessels to return to the Nhava Sheva base as early as possible. It is not clear whether this will affect the overall production at Bombay High.

ONGC spokesperson Narayani Mahel said the Mercantine Marine Department might want to take a view on the safety of all other vessels hired by ONGC. 


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