Crew members of Swiss yacht rescued in Alibag

It was probably the longest and most nerve-wracking wait for Captain Karuna Nidhan Pandey (52) and his four other crew members. They were awaiting help following a blast in their Swiss-made yacht, MS Porrima, amid rough seas and strong winds in the wee hours of Friday, 20 nautical miles off the Navgaon coast in Alibag Taluka.

The crew members, however, were successfully rescued and airlifted by the Indian Coast Guard ship, Agrim, and a helicopter.

“By 3am on Friday, when there was a blast, we raised an alarm with Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, Mumbai (MRCC). The biggest challenge was the darkness and strong winds, yet the coast guards reached us and rescued us safely,” said Pandey.

In May, six crew members started the sail on MS Porrima from Dubai towards Maldives. This journey was the third round of the experiment that the founders of the vessel were conducting to find the sustainability of this project as this vessel runs with the help of 700 solar panels and uses no fuel.

“This time, the experiment was about the short journeys of a month or two to understand how sustainable the vessel is,” Pandey added.

In a statement, the Indian Coast Guard said, “Braving the rough seas and strong wind conditions, coast guard ship Agrim and a helicopter in a joint operation rescued five crew members including foreigners from a distressed Switzerland flag yacht Porrima at Mandwa off Alibag in the wee hours of August 12. In the dark hours of August 12, the yacht had raised mayday requests due to fire in its battery compartment. The Indian Coast Guard immediately responded to the SOS and diverted the fast patrol vessel, ICGS AGRIM, for rescue operations. The yacht was drifted towards the shallow water and reported heavy flooding along with fire onboard.”

The vessel that had a total of seven members faced some technical issues on June 28 and the nearest port being Mandwa, they anchored there and were staying put in the yacht itself. “They applied for maintenance at JNPT and Mumbai port. It is a 36m long yacht and operates on solar, wind and hydrogen. Due to these features, the maintenance request at these ports was rejected. The Swiss-made experimental yacht was staying put at Mandwa and the crew members were in the yacht itself as they did not receive clearance from immigration and FRRO. On Thursday, two of the crew members received Temporary Landing Permission (TLP) and they left, and the yacht was left with five people,” Rajiv Patil, Assistant Police Inspector from Mandwa Coastal Police Station, said.

On Thursday evening, an agency named Atlantic Global Shipping Pvt. Ltd. hired by MS Porrima, sent technicians and the yacht signed off from Rewas port in Alibag Taluka. Captain Pandey joined the yacht from Rewas port and after travelling for around 20 nautical miles, the yacht started showing technical trouble again. The crew tried anchoring the yacht but the anchor drifted away.

“Once there was a blast in the battery room that caused the fire, we took the decision to press the emergency. By 5am, the team reached and we were airlifted,” Pandey said.

Following the airlifting, the crews went through medical check-up and were made to stay in a guest house at Kihim.

“We have initiated the process of TLP for all the crew members after which the immigration process will be done and they will go to their respective home towns. The owner of the company will decide how and when the yacht will be taken back,” Sunil Bhosale from Atlantic Global Shipping agency said.

“The rough weather that the yacht had to go through after reaching the Indian coast and lack of sunlight could have caused the technical issues,” Pandey added.

The other four crew members who were rescued were identified as Bathie Sarr (29) from Senegal, Carmen Claire Latumbo Salvani (43), Jayrald Fajanoy Nala (31) and Marconi FabroFernandez (32), all from Philippines.