Missing fishermen re-establish contact with kin

They are returning to shores in a damaged boat


The weeklong trauma of the families of 11 missing fishermen from Vallavilai vanished on the dawn of Wednesday as the missing crew re-established contact with the families with the satellite phone they were carrying to inform them that they were safe though their mechanised boat ‘Mercedes’ was rammed by a ship.

Vallavilai, a village close to the Kanniyakumari-Kerala border, lost its peace after the families of 11 fishermen in this sleepy coastal hamlet received a phone call from the fishermen of another mechanised boat ‘Periyanayagi’, also from Vallavilai, around 1 p.m. on Saturday last to inform them that fishing boat ‘Mercedes’ in which their breadwinners were sailing, was found drowned in the high-seas – 630 nautical miles off Goa coast.

Mechanised boat ‘Mercedes’, owned by Joseph Franklin, who is also the driver of the vessel, ventured into the sea for multiday deep-sea stay fishing on April 9 and the mishap occurred 630 nautical miles off Goa coast on April 23 night.

As the fishermen of ‘Periyanayagi’ could see only the top of the wheelhouse of ‘Mercedes’ floating and the two damaged fiberglass country boats accompanying ‘Mercedes’, which are usually taken along to surround the tuna shoals, they inferred that the mechanised boat had drowned after a mishap though only the wheelhouse had been knocked off into the sea after a ship rammed it.

The crew of ‘Periyanayagi’ also alerted the fishermen in the region.

“On nearing the Indian waters, Joseph Franklin spoke with his family with the satellite phone with BSNL SIM around 7 a.m. on Wednesday,” said Sunil Sabariyar of Vallavilai, who is a close relative of a couple of fishermen on the ill-fated boat.

In the impact of the mishap, the crew of ‘Mercedes’ had also been thrown into the sea. While 8 of them managed to get back to the partially damaged boat within next few minutes of the accident, three of them failed to board the boat, forcing them to launch search for the missing colleagues. On seeing the trio swimming at a distance, they were also rescued. Once all of them boarded the boat, theyhad decided to return to the shores.

“Since the steering wheel had also suffered damage due to the impact of the mishap, Mr. Franklin and others had set it right with wooden planks and poles in the boat. Then they had contacted the families with the satellite phone on getting the signals. Now, a small GPS in the boat is guiding them towards Thaengaaipattinam fishing harbour, their base,” said Mr. Sunil, who said they were 426 nautical miles off Vallavilai and 200 nautical miles off Lakshadweep around 8.30 a.m. on Wednesday.

“They are expected to reach the shores on May 1,” he said.

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