Ship docked in Karachi Port brought to the coast guard station in Porbandar

Ship docked in Karachi Port brought to the coast guard station in Porbandar

Ahmedabad,July31:The vessel and its crew have been brought to the coast guard station in Porbandar. They are being interrogated by a joint team of the police, the Indian Navy, customs and intelligence officials,” a source in the coast guard said. Further investigation is likely to be taken over by Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

However, according to the sources, one of the crew is believed to be an Iran national and a relative of the owner of the ship. Another crew member was Pakistani.

The two are believed to have got off the ship at Karachi port. (The ship was built in 1982.)

“The ship was parked at Karachi port for two days after it arrived from Dubai. It then left for Alang ship-breaking yard for dismantling. We suspect that the heroin was hidden in the vessel at Karachi itself,” a coast guard official said.

The official further said that they were in contact with their counterparts in Pakistan.

“We want to know the exact status and time at which the ship was parked and when it left Karachi port for Alang,” the senior coast guard official said.

Interrogation by the Indian coast guard of the apprehended crew has not yet revealed any specific location from where the ship originally set sail. “We have found that the vessel was registered in Panama,” the official said.

Sources in the coast guard said they had received intelligence inputs regarding the unusual movement of a ship about 210 miles off the Gujarat coast, beyond Indian waters. The ship was most likely headed for Jamnagar or Bhavnagar, the inputs said.

“We immediately alerted coast guard stations at Gandhinagar, Mumbai and Porbandar. Dornier aircraft and radar systems at Dwarka, Navadra, Porbandar, Mangrol, Diu, Gopnath and Hazira were put on high alert,” an official said.

Two cargo vessels — MSV Al Amir and Noor-e-Shabbir — on way to Jam Salaya were intercepted and verified at Okha port but nothing suspicious was found. Meanwhile, Dornier aircraft of the coast guard patrolling the Gulf of Khambhat, picked a vessel heading towards Bhavnagar.

“On verification it was found that no such vessel was expected at Bhavnagar. Hence, it was intercepted by the coast guard. The vessel was found transmitting its identity on wireless,” a coast guard official said.

During earlier voyages, the vessel was identified from maritime traffic website. It did not have any valid documents.

“Captain of the ship, Suprik Tiwary, said that as the ship was heading for demolition at Alang, they did not carry any documents,” the coast guard official said.

The captain and the crew had initially denied that they were carrying any narcotics but sustained interrogation led to the recovery of 1500 kg of heroin from the ship.

 Heroin in plastic bags hidden in water tank: Coast guard officials got the crew to talk by sustained interrogation. “The crew had been denying that the ship carried any narcotics but they later confessed they were carrying drugs. The narcotic was hidden in a specially-made compartment in the water tank of the vessel,” a coast guard official said.

140 kg heroin seized in April 2015: In a similar operation in April 2015, 140 kg heroin worth Rs 280 crore was seized from a boat called, Fiza, about 150 nautical miles off Porbandar coast. Indian officials had then arrested eight Pakistani sailors and recovered satellite phones from them.

 Alias scribbled in paint: The name of the ship, which had earlier gone on voyages named, Al Sadiq, had apparently changed its identity several times. “The name ‘Henry’ and ‘Prince- 2’ were found scribbled on it in paint. The crew is being questioned by several intelligence, security and police agencies,” a coast guard official said.