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Safe evacuation of 45 Indian seafarers out of Ukraine by Indian embassy

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NEW DELHI : Indian Embassy has evacuated forty-five Indian nationals who found themselves stuck onboard two cargo vessels at a Ukrainian Port. The crew safely touched down in India earlier this week.

The crew were onboard two vessels managed by Fleet Management Limited, also known as FLEET, one of the world’s largest independent third-party ship management companies headquartered in Hong Kong. They manage over six hundred types of vessels ranging from bulk carriers, container vessels and tankers and house around twenty-four thousand seafarers – the majority of which are Indian nationals – and more than a thousand people onshore.

However, their twenty-seven-year long journey cruising through waters across the globe had not prepared them for the exigency that awaited them when two of their managed vehicles arrived in the port of Mykolaiv (a.k.a Nikolaev) on 23 February 2022 for a cargo operation. The escalation of military activity led to the suspension of all port operations on 4 March 2022, creating a massive bottleneck for its crew who were left stranded in their vessels.

The respective masters onboard both the vessels wasted no time. They shared their concerns with FLEET’s onshore teams and a task force was formed together with the ships’ owners with the objective of closely monitoring the situation and guiding the masters and their crews amidst the worrying circumstances. Over the next several days, the task force tapped into every available resource and contact in their network to facilitate the supply of food, water and other necessary provisions to the crew members.

While they were functioning tirelessly, the crew members displayed enormous courage, resilience and extended their cooperation throughout this ordeal. However, it soon became clear to one and all that the crew had to be evacuated out of harm’s way at the earliest and FLEET and the ship manager and owner stood united in their commitment to facilitate their safe return back home.

Mumbai based Elegant Marine Services who are the manning agents responsible for finding seafarers to work onboard the two vessels and arranging their documentation then reached out to the Indian embassy in Ukraine. They sought the support of the defense attaché in evacuating a total of forty-five Indian seafarers onboard both the vessels. The Indian embassy in Ukraine responded quickly and extended their full support graciously by contacting both the Masters directly and guiding them through every step of the evacuation plan. The crew had literally placed their lives in the hands of the embassy all through those trying times.

The defense attaché arranged for a bus to pick up all the crew members while securing approval from port authorities to allow the crew to pass through the exit gates and board it safely. On their advice, once the crew got on the bus safely, they placed the Indian flag on its windshield so that it was clearly visible from each of the checkpoints as the bus carried them to the Moldova border. The movement of the bus was continuously monitored by the embassy and it was even provided with a third-party security escort during a part of its journey.

Once the crew reached Moldova, the Indian embassy over there swiftly facilitated entry procedures and arranged for the crew to be transported to Romania. Upon their arrival in Romania, the task force arranged for the medical aid and psychological support for the crew members. The crew was then flown home to India in two groups, the first batch arrived via an Indian Air Force aircraft on 10 March 2022 while the second group arrived via a commercial flight on 13 March 2022.

Shri Amitabh Kumar, Director General of Shipping, played a key role in coordinating with all the government agencies to safeguard the wellbeing of the Indian seafarers in Ukraine.

According to Mr. Kishore Rajvanshy, Managing Director of Fleet Management Limited, the safety and wellbeing of the seafarers are always FLEET’s top priority. This incredible feat would not have been possible without the tremendous leadership of the Indian embassy in Ukraine, who spearheaded the evacuation.

“We are deeply concerned with the situation in Ukraine and our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by the conflict. Despite this very frightening circumstance, the crew displayed an enormous amount of courage and bravery, and we are very relieved that both ship’s crews have been safely evacuated out of Ukraine and they have been reunited with their families and loved ones back home in India.”, says Mr. Rajvanshi.

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