Mumbai shipper refutes skipper’s comments in Indian Newslink
First of Three Parts
“Unfortunately, in the past 25 years, successive governments at the Centre and the State levels in India have failed to acknowledge my humanitarian mission, as I defied their warning and went ahead with my mission. Its success was a slap in the face of the prophets of doom,” Captain Juvale had said in his three-series of articles that appeared in February 15, March 1 and March 15, 2016 issues of Indian Newslink.
MV Safeer was released due to the intervention of the Indian government.
The ship’s owners first met the Iraqi Consular representative in Mumbai with a request to allow consular access by an official from the Indian Embassy in Kuwait to visit ‘MV Safeer.’ Their prime concern was the safety and welfare of the crew and then that of the vessel and its cargo. The owners also requested the Iraqi authorities to help with the eventual release of the vessel.
The Iraqi representative told the owners to request the Indian government to contact the Iraqi Embassy in New Delhi. They took up this matter immediately with the Shipping and External Affairs ministries.
Preparing for evacuation
On August 30, 1990, on the instructions of K P Fabian, Joint Secretary (Gulf) at the External Affairs Ministry, Captain Kekobad sent a detailed message to the Master of ‘MV Safeer’ regarding evacuation. This message was sent from the External Affairs Ministry to the Indian Embassy in Kuwait.
The Master communicated to Captain Kekobad on August 31, 1990 through the Indian Embassy in Kuwait and also spoke to Mr Fabian regarding preparations for the evacuation. He again communicated to Mr Fabian on the following day (September 1, 1990) after Captain Mathew, Nautical Advisor to the Kuwaiti government visited the vessel and checked its preparedness to undertake the voyage.
All the above are facts, entered in the Ship’s Log Book, duly signed by Captain Juvale and Chief Officer Nazir Mulla.
I have in my possession the ship’s original logbook signed by Captain Zain Juvale and Chief Officer Nazir Mulla, radio messages sent by the Master to the External Affairs Ministry on departure from Kuwait, the Indian Consulate in Dubai and to owner’s office in Dubai. All other relevant documentation pertaining to the negotiations with the Indian government and the Iraqi authorities were also dispatched.
If the Master was claiming to defy the Indian government, then why were all these communications sent requesting to arrange for safe disembarkation of 722 Indian nationals who were evacuated from Kuwait?
Indian Newslink had carried an article by Suresh Mal Mathur, former Second Secretary at the Indian Embassy in Kuwait in its April 1, 2016 issue in which he had said that intensive discussions were held with the concerned ministries of the Indian government with the involvement of the owners of ‘MV Safeer.’
He has also confirmed that the Master’s claims (that the international shipping industry had ignored his plight) are incorrect and exaggerated.
He had taken Captain Juvale to meet External Affairs Minister Inder Kumar Gujral when he visited Kuwait on August 21, 1990.
Mr Mathur can vouch to all the facts since Mr Gujral is no more.
Hanif Modak is Managing Director, Oyster Ship Management Private Limited based in Mumbai, India. He has provided us extensive information on ‘MV Safeer’ of which his late father was one of the owners. He has also provided newspaper clippings of the evacuation story that appeared in Indian newspapers. These and another part of his article will appear in our next issue.
The following letter (sent to us by Hanif Modak) was reportedly written by Nazir Mulla, who was the Chief Officer aboard ‘MV Safeer’ to Captain Zain Juvale on March 13, 2016 following the latter’s articles in Indian Newslink.
Dear Captain Zainul Abideen
Hearty Congratulations for ‘The Unsung Hero Community Award.’
As you are aware, the evacuation of 722 Indians on ‘MV Safeer’ was once again in limelight in Midday issue dated February 6, 2016. All this momentum was caught after release of the movie ‘Air Lift.’ Also, Oyster had called media and ‘Safeer’ was again in news after 25 years. However, I was out of India during this period.
Recently I was in Oyster’s office and to my surprise, I happened to view ‘Safeer’ logbook signed by us. Also, I read some of your writings that you have released in news. I see that few things are unfairly exaggerated, exploited and not in line with actual facts that we faced in Iraq occupied Kuwait. Following are some for example:
During the first military action, where all crew was captured by Iraqi Soldiers and was forced to line up on wharf in surrendered position with our hands on our heads. After this, there was no any harassment to the crew. None of the crew faced a gun six inches from his eyes with soldiers fingers ready on the trigger nor did any crew face soldiers standing behind them pointing gun on their heads at a blank range.
On no occasion during our 35 days of stay in Kuwait did the ship run short of food. ‘Safeer’ being a rice carrier, had stores full of rejected/torn bags sufficient for the entire crew to survive for at least nine months in dire situations. Later, the soldiers had opened a canteen in Port Shuwaikh and poured boxes of chicken and other stuff on the ship. In fact, some Iraqi authorities and soldiers used to have their meals from the vessel.
Where were the mined waters? Had Iraqis laid mines in Kuwaiti waters? No. We had no such briefing when we left Kuwait with 722 Indian refugees. Also, vessel had followed the same route out with reverse courses when it sailed from Kuwait.
I also read/heard somewhere that the vessel had a welcome message with music from a UAE Naval ship when she berthed in Dubai, which is not true.
I must emphasise that the unprecedented operation that led to successful evacuation of 722 Indians from Kuwait on a small cargo ship was not a one-man show.
It was not all about ‘I,’ ’Me’ and ‘Myself.’
It was a joint effort, a diligent and extra ordinary team work by all the crew of ‘Safeer,’ who had poured this success at the Master’s feet and they all deserve to be called unsung heroes.
The mission was unique in its nature. In addition, the Indian Embassy, community workers in Kuwait, Iraqi Authorities and extremely cooperative Iraqi soldiers, Indian government authorities in New Delhi and the Ship owners played a crucial role in making the ‘Safeer Mission’ successful.
It is needless to say that the Mission would not have been possible had the Owners rejected or objected carriage of passengers on their cargo ship.
Captain Nazir A I Mulla
Photo Caption: MV Safeer