Sailor Rescued After Spending a Year on Abandoned Ship in UAE

Indian sailor Nirmal Singh Rawat was rescued by authorities after spending close to a year alone on board an abandoned ship.


Indian sailor Nirmal Singh Rawat was rescued from an abandoned ship by authorities earlier this week after spending close to a year alone on board MT Hamed 2. With no electricity and minimal food and water available, Rawat, the captain of the vessel, fought extreme weather conditions in the hope that he will one day make it home and reunite with his family.

The oil tanker was anchored five nautical miles away from the shore of Sharjah and Ajman, from where Singh was rescued and flown home to Uttarakhand on Nov. 22. During the months he spent on the ship, he was able to communicate with authorities to register his woes when sailors from ships passing by helped him charge his phone.

Singh, 27, joined the ship as the captain in July 2016. He was not given a contract and was promised $2,000 per month for the job. The ship had eight more crew members, who agreed to quit and return home without the pending salaries in November 2016. “I am the captain. I couldn’t go just like that. Also, I wanted to get my pending salaries. So I stayed back,” he said, Gulf News reported.

“I was not given a contract even after I joined the ship. It was when I asked the other crew members that I realized that I was being fooled because they also had not been paid for 14 to 17 months,” he added.

During his time on the ship, he ate once in three days to preserve ration. Sometimes, ships passing by would offer him some food. He spent most of the period alone, except when he saved another sailor who jumped into his vessel in February.

“He had got into my ship when I was trying to rescue his smaller vessel by pulling the rope. As we both were pulling it, the rope broke and that vessel (Al Mahra) was washed away and sank,” he said.

Bodies of seven crewmen and three sailors were found later by the Sharjah Coast Guard and the Police Air Wing. Two others from the vessel are missing.

“There had been days I had to starve without food and water. Once I had to stay for 50 hours without a drop of water in the peak of summer,” he said. He slept on the deck in the summer months as conditions inside the ship were unbearable.

Indian social worker Girish Pant helped in Rawat’s rescue efforts as he was in touch with him as often as possible. “I wouldn’t have survived without the constant assurance and motivation by Girish Pant that I will go home one day. I thank the Federal Transport Authority (FTA) of United Arab Emirates and the Indian Consulate for helping me out after he took up my case with them and pushed for my sign off,” Rawat said.

Pant said Rawat’s condition perturbed him and he was worried that Rawat would take an extreme step. “I salute his grit and optimism. Though he was in such a terrible state, he never lost his calm. Sometimes there was no news from him for weeks and I used to worry about him a lot,” Pant said.

The FTA provided Rawat with provisions after the matter was taken up with them. Consul General of India Vipul commended FTA and Sharjah Port Authority for their assistance in rescuing abandoned sailors. Rawat is the latest among the 220 Indian sailors sent back from the UAE in the last six months.

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