Chaff Launch

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mystery at sea: Missing tug, found tow

From here, a nautical mystery:
More mysterious than the disappearance of the ship is the way it was kept secret for more than a month.

Ten families across India are anxiously waiting for news of tug vessel Jupiter 6, which just vanished off the South African coast six weeks ago with an Indian crew of 10 and three Ukranian sailors.

“Had there been an American sailor on board, the ship would have definitely been traced by now,” Anil Kumar Sharma couldn’t hide his anger and frustration.

It was only on Tuesday that he had learnt that the ship — with his younger brother Sunil on board as second engineer — had been missing at sea since September 5.

Jupiter 6 — registered in Kingston, Jamaica, but believed to be owned by an Indian family — was towing bulk carrier Satsang from Namibia to the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat.

It had sailed from Cuba two months ago and reached the Namibian port of Walvis Bay, from where it was scheduled to reach Alang via Mauritius. The Indian crew spoke to their families from Namibia in the last week of August.

On August 28, the ship left Walvis Bay but stayed in touch with its Mumbai-based manning agent, Pelican Marine. Till September 5, when it seems to have fallen off the edge of the earth.

Satsang was found drifting in the ocean, about 220 nautical miles south of Port Elizabeth, and was towed ashore.

The relatives of the Indian crew are furious with the shipping agent, Pelican Marine, for not alerting them or the Indian shipping authorities about the missing ship more than a month later.
More here:
The tug Jupiter 6 is officially presumed lost with all hands after an emergency radio beacon signal was picked up and a search failed to find the ship.

Several grim signs pointed to the fate of the tug, missing for more than a month.

But they fail to shed light on the mystery of what befell the ill-fated vessel.

The clues are a belated signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon, a patch of oil and a piece of wreckage in a position about 200 miles south of Port Elizabeth, well off the shipping lanes.

This seems to be the tragic conclusion to the mystery that has haunted the shipping industry since September 6, the day the last communication from the Indian-owned tug was heard.

The tug and her tow were reported missing when no further communications were received and ships at sea were asked to keep a lookout. At the weekend, the tug's emergency beacon finally began signalling and the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Bellville sent an SA Air Force long-range aircraft to search the sea around the position signalled by the beacon.

Two ships joined in the search.

The aircraft crew saw only a patch of oil and a piece of wreckage, but no survivors or other signs of the vessel.

Even the wreckage and the oil could not officially be linked to the tug, said a spokesman for the rescue centre who did not wish to be named.

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