Turk cargo ship missing in Black Sea in bizarre incident

Many questions remain unanswered about the disappearance of a Turkish cargo vessel and its crew off the Turkish coast of the Black Sea.

Turk cargo ship missing in Black Sea in bizarre incident
The Panama-flagged MV Rezzak and its 25 Indian crewmembers were traveling from Novorossisk, Russia, to Bartın, Turkey with a shipment of steel billets. The ship lost communication with tracking centers in the early hours of Feb. 18. Turkish authorities have found no trace of the ship except a life raft drifting some five nautical miles off the Turkish coast, India's DNA newspaper reported on Feb. 23.

DNA quoted Biswas Santosh, the general manager of India's Mumbai-based Pelican Marine, which hired the Indian crew, as saying, "The Rezzak left Novorossisk on Feb. 17 and was to reach Bartın the next morning. On the night the ship went missing, the weather was very bad, with gale-like conditions. We received information that the vessel was missing on Monday evening. We have informed the … families of the crew. We are in touch with the [Marine Rescue and Coordination Center] in Turkey every three hours."

Officials from the İstanbul-based CMR Denizcilik Ve Ticaret A.Ş., which owns the Rezzak, were not available for comment.

DNA, however, noted that while it is common for vessels to go missing in African waters, where pirates thrive, a vessel disappearing without a trace in an inland sea is very unusual. The Rezzak was built in 1984 and is equipped with the latest communication equipment, DNA reported.

DNA also reported that Pelican Marine had been the management for the Jupiter 6, a ship that went missing in the Indian Ocean on Sept. 5, 2005.

Suspicions of insurance fraud

Turkish maritime officials speaking to Today's Zaman said they suspected there may have been a plot behind the incident.

The same officials raised several questions and assumptions over this bizarre incident. They say that, if it sank, it is strange that neither the bodies of the crew nor traces of the ship have been found, except a life raft from the vessel drifting off the Turkish coast. Other interesting facts are that the ship failed to send any distress signals -- raising questions of whether its communication equipment had been switched off -- and that the Pelican company allegedly does not have legal authorization to hire people.

There were also questions about whether the incident could be a plot aimed at receiving insurance payment from the relevant insurance company, namely British Marine of the United Kingdom. The ship was said to be insured for around $6 million while the crew was insured for $200,000 each. Recently the families of the crew have allegedly stopped calling the Pelican company to seek the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Insurance is only paid once an investigation launched by the International Maritime Organization is completed. The investigation will decide if the ship has sunk and examine claims that it might have been deliberately sunk to claim the insurance proceeds. Finding the vessel on the seabed of the would be very difficult given the currents in the Black Sea and the rugged topography of its sea floor.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Şubat 2008, 17:26