27 May 2003 – A cargo vessel from Brazil was detained by the Bhavnagar Customs department on Sunday night, for illegally entering Indian territory. The vessel, which had come for ship-breaking at Alang, was found berthed at ‘anchorage point’ near Gogha in Bhavnagar for the past three days.
According to highly placed sources in the Customs department, the cargo vessel named Sirius I carried the flag of Saint Vincent. ‘‘The approximate weight of the vessel constructed in 1971 is around 9,000 tons and carried a total of 21 crew members — all of whom were Indians,’’ said sources.
‘‘Before a ship enters Indian territory, the agent appointed by the vessel has to inform the Customs department before its arrival. It also has to seek the permission of the Customs department within 12 hours of its arrival. But, this vessel has not appointed any agent. It arrived at Alang three days ago and was lying near Gogha. No Central Government agency had information about the arrival of this vessel,’’ said sources.
When asked about the action initiated, they said, ‘‘We are inquiring into the matter. Since illegal entry poses security threat, we are trying to find out why the ship entered Indian territory without seeking permission. Maybe, they did not want to pay the duty. Based on the inquiry report, action will be taken. I will take about a month to complete the necessary formalities.’’
During checking, the authorities also came across an e-mail sent by Pelican Marine Private Limited in Mumbai to the vessel master. The letter stated: ‘You are not to report to the port authority about your arrival. Wait till further instructions.’
‘‘We have called the person at Pelican Marine Private Limited who is also responsible for sending such an e-mail to the master of this vessel. He is expected to arrive here by Tuesday,’’ said sources.
According to the sources, Pelican Marine Private Limited runs a labour organisation. Whenever a foreign ship owner shows interest in ship-breaking and requires crew members to bring the ship from the foreign country to India, Pelican Marine Private Limited organises the crew members for them.
‘‘We have also initiated inquiry into the background of one Sandeep Mehta of Bhavnagar, who is reportedly the reprsentative of one of the ship owners, and also acts as mediator between foreign ship owners and the ship breakers,’’ said sources.
When asked if the department found any object from the ship that could pose as a threat, sources said, ‘‘It is difficult to enter the vessel as the hatches are closed. Even the ladders are broken.’’