100 tonnes of explosives go missing
Mumbai/New Delhi, December 28
A consignment of over 100 tonnes of explosives meant for use by the Border Road Organisation (BRO) for road construction in Afghanistan has gone missing from a merchant ship off the coast of Mumbai, sending alarm bells in security establishments.

The Captain and six crew of members the Iran-bound ship have been detained and questioned by the authorities to ascertain how the explosives went missing after the vessel had set sail from Mumbai on December 22.

The explosives were meant for blasting rocks and mountain sides for the highway being built by the BRO to link Delaram with Kanadhar in Afghanistan.

Officials said the ship after sailing from Mumbai for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas where the consignment was to be offloaded to be taken to the project site, had gone missing just 10 to 15 nautical miles off Mumbai.

The Navy and Coast Guard located the vessel just off the Mumbai coast on December 23 and towed it back under escort.

The Captain claimed the explosives being carried in five to six containers had sunk in the sea in rough weather, officials said.

A search has been launched for the shipping agent who had booked the explosives.

A high-level team of experts from intelligence agencies, state police, Customs, Coast Guard, Navy and the army has been set up by Union Home Ministry to probe the incident, officials in New Delhi said. 

Director of the shipping company, Unimarine Ltd Samsu Sheroff said about six hours after the ship had been sailing it encountered a very choppy sea and the Captain reported that one of the containers in the deck been loosened and might fall in to the sea.

He said the Captain again sent a message to the owner of the ship on December 23, saying that one container had already been lost.

When the ship was asked to return to the Indian territory, the Captain turned around to come to Mumbai and “in the bargain other five containers on board were lost. So, all cargos meant for Bandar Abbas from where that was to go to Afghanistan for the BRO (were lost),” Sheroff said.

Maintaining that the cargo had been lost in the sea, he said it was very much lying on the sea bed.

All crew members of the ship had been take into custody, Defence Ministry sources in Delhi said. 

“The situation is under control. A high-level probe is already on and the reports are expected by late tonight,” a Home Ministry official told The Tribune here.

Refusing to elaborate further, he indicated that either Home Minister Shivraj Patil or Home Secretary V.K. Duggal might make an official statement on this tomorrow.

Two metallic boxes sighted off Mumbai coast
Navy divers have sighted two metallic boxes eight-10 nautical miles off Mumbai port which could be the consignments of over 100 tonnes of explosives that went missing from a merchant ship last week, Union Home Secretary VK Duggal said on Thursday.

"Sonar beams were used by the Indian Navy and there is a report that apparently two containers have been sighted. But until we have all the details, we cannot say anything further," Duggal, said.

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