Owner of merchant vessel that vanished denied insurance cover
Wednesday, 30 November 2011 | 00:00
A grave illegality has come to light, following the merchant vessel MSV Al Akhtar vanishing without a trace in the Arabian Sea during a storm on Sunday. The vessel did not have insurance and its owner, Mohammad Mustapha, has to bear the losses and compensate for the death of six crew members.
The entire fleet of 45 vessels sailing between Lakshadweep and Mangalore has been operating without insurance cover for the past three years. The vessel owners blame insurance companies. “The companies did not process the insurance papers nor renew the insurance policies issued earlier,” they said.
“We have asked them several times over the last three years and sent a cheque for `12,000 per quarter towards the premium, but none of the government general insurance companies have agreed to cover us. When we asked them to give us reasons in writing, the company officials handling marine insurance just give us the slip,” said Jaffer Sadik, owner of the vessel Dhana Prasad.
The vessel has all the required papers, including a no-objection certificate, fitness certificate, and current insurance cover in 2010. But the insurance has not been renewed by the Oriental General Insurance Company.
“I switched to New India Assurance, which has also denied insurance cover for my vessel,” said Sadik.
Owner of the ill-fated Al Akhtar, Mustapha, too, was denied insurance. “I have another vessel MSV Matheen. I’ve been paying insurance amount of `12,000 every quarter for the past 15 years. But now, I have been told by the company that the insurance will not be renewed for next year,” said Mustapha.
The officials of the minority marine co-operative society that holds a stake in the Mangalore-Lakshadweep cargo lines operations revealed that over 45 vessels had no insurance and were forced to ply illegally.
“We have no other option. We have several debts. If the vessels stop plying, we will not have money to repay the banks,” said Sadik.
The port department has been notified of the problems, but nothing has been done so far,” said vessel operators.
They are planning to move the Insurance Regulation and Development Authority (IRDA), India’s apex body of insurance regulation.