Indian authorities have confirmed that charges of culpable homicide are being brought against the owner of an ocean-going tugboat that sank during Cyclone Tauktae off the coast of India last month. Barge P305 and tugboat Varaprada were just two of the vessels caught at sea on May 17th as Cyclone Tauktae passed offshore near Mumbai, India.
Both vessels were working for the state-run oil company operating in the offshore oilfields near Mumbai. The barge sunk, with 75 of the 261 people on board dying.
The crews had believed that the storm would be far weaker, with winds expected to be in the range of 25mph rather than the 100mph-plus which eventually struck.
Anchor handling tugboat Varaprada was bringing a construction barge, the Gal Constructor, loaded with 137 people, back to Mumbai when the storm struck. The tug reportedly drifted in the high seas before separating from the barge, which would later run aground. The Varaprada remained trapped on the high seas, and sank with a crew of 13 aboard, only two of whom were rescued.
The Indian Navy and Coast Guard recovered the bodies of the 11 missing crew members from the ocean along with 75 bodies from the barge.
A First Information Report was registered with the police in Mumbai on June 24th based on information provided by one of the survivors of the tugboat. Under Indian law, the charges were culpable homicide not amounting to murder, meaning that the owner of the tugboat is being charged with actions causing the death of the crew.
The police in Mumbai are conducting a separate investigation into the circumstances of the loss of the barge P305.