Monday, October 24, 2005

Missing Sailor: Embassy Issues Alert In Baltic

The Indian Embassy in Poland has sounded an alert across the Baltic region to probe the mysterious disappearance of Gurgaon Sailor Gautam Malik from the vessel MV Spar Cetus at the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda.
MV Spar Cetus
Alerted by their counterparts in Poland, the Indian Embassy in Sweden has urged Latvian authorities to carry out detailed investigations into the incident. ‘‘We have alerted authorities across the Baltic region. Our Mission in Sweden has also been informed since affairs concerning Latvia are monitored by them. We have also alerted authorities in Norway where the vessel is registered and Hong Kong where the company has its headquarters. Thorough checks are being conducted everywhere as we understand the gravity of the matter,’’ Indian Ambassador to Poland Anil Wadhawan told Newsline over phone from Warsaw. Lithuanian authorities, meanwhile, have also mounted an independent investigation into the incident. The ship - which left Klaipeda a day before Gautam’s sister Preeti Sekhri and brother-in-law Munish reached Lithuania on October 13 to look into the facts of the case - is presently berthed in Latvia. Gautam’s employers - Hong Kong-based Fleet Management company - had told his family that Gautam either slipped into the sea at Klaipeda or had left the ship uninformed. Pointing to an e-mail sent by Preeti Sekhri based on her observations at Lithuania, Wadhawan said, ‘‘She has pointed out certain major gaps in the initial investigations. Her contention about the ship not being searched properly at Klaipeda is true. Only Gautam’s cabin and the deck area from where his walky-talky was found were searched. This should not have happened. The shipping company was in a hurry to sail out of Klaipeda which should have been prevented.’’ Back from Klaipeda, Preeti said, ‘‘We had e-mailed our observations to the shipping company on October 18. They replied yesterday saying that all correspondence should be done by my old mother who hasn’t slept properly since this incident. The deck cadet who last saw him at 8 am on October 9 had said that Gautam could have probably gone down for measuring draught. The ship was off-loading sugar for two days at Klaipeda and Gautam had never gone down.’’ ‘‘As per rules, a person cannot go alone for the same, there is some kind of watch when he climbs down the ladder. Also he wears a harness, a life jacket and is supported by two members. How come then no one noticed him?’’ she added. Speaking to Newsline over phone from Lithuania, Petras Anuras, Deputy Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, ‘‘Police is investigating the case. Looks like the Interpol has also been informed. We understand the trauma of the family and we are trying our best.’’ Incidentally, while Gautam was last spotted at 8 am, divers were pressed into service five hours later. Efforts to reach Fleet Management representatives in India and Hong Kong proved futile.

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