Companies accuse ‘missing’ captain of barge crash
Rakesh Ballav, captain or barge captain of the P-305, who is “missing”, has been blamed.
New Delhi: Responsibility for at least 75 missing personnel, 51 of whom have been confirmed dead, who belonged to the P-305 accommodation barge contracted by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation of India (ONGC) which sank on May 17, was carried on the shoulders of the only individual who can neither defend himself nor be punished even if found guilty. The barge sank at Bombay High in the Arabian Sea due to the impact of Cyclone Tauktae. In an attempt to evade responsibility, the companies blamed the captain or barge captain of the P-305, Rakesh Ballav, who had been attached to the barge since January 2019. Hailing from Patna, Bihar, Ballav is one of the 26 which are always ”. faded away”.
Barge P-305, which was stationed about 70 km out to sea, housed personnel responsible for the maintenance of ONGC’s offshore oil rigs. It had 261 people on board before it sank. The barge was deployed by Afcons Infrastructure, a Mumbai-based construction and engineering company, which is part of the Shapoorji Pallonji (SP) group.
The barge was owned by Durmast whose parent company is Ocean Diving Center Limited with CIN number U74210MH1990PLC055420. The head office of the company is in Vile Parle, Mumbai. It has three directors, Sunil Shantaram Mohite, Praman Vikram Naik and Vikram Bhikhubhai Naik.
The Sunday Guardian’s multiple calls and messages to the Ocean Diving Center did not elicit a response. According to specialist websites, which track ships and barges, the 17-year-old Papaa-305, 96 meters long and 31 meters wide, was built in 2004 and is registered on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis. She was towed to India from Labuan, Malaysia by Jawar Al Khaleej Shipping LLC and reached Mumbai at 11:18 p.m. on December 30, 2018 before being chartered by Afcons infrastructure to perform CGSB work.
The staff, who worked on the barge, were recruited by Udya Shipping Services Private Limited, a Navi Mumbai-based company established in 2001 that recruits seafarers and similar experts.
Udya Shipping Services officials told the Sunday Guardian that Ballav had 14 years of “rank” experience and that it was incorrect to hold him responsible as is the case at the moment.
He had previously worked with Mumbai-based GOL Offshore Limited as a barge captain for 10 years before starting to work in the current role of Ocean Diving Center Limited with CIN number U74210MH1990PLC055420. The head office of the company is in Vile Parle, Mumbai. It has three directors, Sunil Shantaram Mohite, Praman Vikram Naik and Vikram Bhikhubhai Naik.
Besides Ballav, 23 other crew members were on the barge, the rest being part of the project and restoration team. All of these 23 naval crew members had experiences ranging from 2 to 14 years and were adept at handling the situation on the barge.
The Yellow Gate Police Station in Mumbai on Thursday registered an FIR against Ballav based on a complaint filed by Rahman Shaikh, a P-305 engineer, for failing to take the cyclone warning seriously. The case was registered under Sections 304 (II) (an act done with knowledge that it is likely to cause death), 338 (causing serious injury by an act endangering the life or personal safety of ‘others) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. Yellow Gate Police Station Senior Inspector Suhas Hemade told the Sunday Guardian that as the investigation continues, the names of other people and companies are likely to be added to the case. .
Other parties involved in the whole incident, the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), on their behalf, said they had done their duty by repeatedly issuing warnings to ships and other barges long before as the cyclone hits, asking them to return or move to safer places.
Responsibility for the crash and the deaths, according to a Coast Guard official, lies with Afcons Infrastructure, as it should have ensured that those responsible for the barge, including Ballav, acted on the cyclone warning.
Afcons, for its part, said responsibility for the crash lay with Durmast and Ballav. In an unsigned statement from the company, the company said: “Durmast is the owner and responsibility for marine operations rests with the shipowner and his marine crew stationed on the ship.”
The Sunday Guardian’s email to Afcons corporate communications team requesting its response to action taken to alert people to the P-305, if any, and has it contacted the captain of the barge as to why he was not following instructions to move to a safe position, did not generate a response.
A member of the ONGC employees’ union told the Sunday Guardian that the majority of the “assets” held by the CGSB had moved to safer places or returned long before the cyclone struck, but much like the P-305 did not.
“The system is very simple, in the event of bad weather regular updates are broadcast from the control center and ships are invited to move to different locations or to return. Why the P-305 did not return is something only time will tell. In addition, a survey of the sea quality of the P-305 should be carried out; it was pretty old, ”he said.
The CGSB has yet to issue an official statement indicating who it believes was responsible for the crash.
However, media reports, citing unnamed CGSB officials, said blame for the crash lay on Afcons and Durmast.
The studied silence of some of the private actors involved in the entire accident, including Afcons and Ocean Diving Center, led to more questions about the role played by ONGC, Afcons and Ocean Diving Center before the cyclone. does not strike and until the barge sinks.
Email requests to senior CGSB officials for action taken by them throughout the crash did not elicit a response.
Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, announced on Wednesday the creation of a high-level committee (HLC) composed of three members including Subhash Chandra Lal Das (IAS), director general of hydrocarbons, Amitabh Kumar (IRS), director general of shipping, and Nazli Jafri Shayin, an officer with the Indian Audit and Accounting Service (IAAS) currently serving as deputy secretary of the Ministry of Defense, to investigate the accident. The HLC was asked to submit its report within 30 days.
However, with the narrative already established on who was responsible for the crash, workers heading out to sea believe the HLC’s finding is unlikely to pin blame for the crash on the companies. “Large companies are involved in this misadventure, the scope of which extends to officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Transport. In a week or two, everything will be forgotten. They are trying to put the blame on a person so that their own mistakes are not revealed, ”said a technician working for ONGC at Bombay High.