Bander Abbas Express

Jitendra Sanghvi

Jitendra Sanghvi joined the Customs Department in the year 1972 and took voluntary retirement in 2003 as Deputy Commissioner. He served as a faculty member at the National Academy of Customs and Central Excise Mumbai for 8 years. Upon voluntary retirement he started Sanjosh Consultants with two former colleagues. He was also a special counsel to Central Board of Excise and Customs. A keen sportsperson since childhood, he played cricket for his college, the Customs Cricket team and several clubs. He practises Vipassana and is a keen environmentalist.

Rummaging office was situated in the docks, it had grand panoramic view. Sea attracted him and thus his free time was spent looking at it; especially the early morning. He shut his eyes briefly and could see vividly the cross island off Victoria dock, in the distant were the refineries. His vision slide past the Oil jetties of Butcher Island and settled behind to acknowledge the port of Nhava-Sheva . He visualized further, he saw the mountain range nestling elephant caves, minor ports like Mora, Uran, Karanja and Alibag. He could see the vast open sea on the right except the naval base nearby.

His mind went back in the past, he saw himself sitting outside in the viewing gallery, it was pitch dark and only the lights on the vessels anchored in the inner anchorage area were visible. He could hear his own rhythmic breathing as everything else was silent. Slowly the darkness began to recede; he could see the sky changing color from inky blue to reddish to golden yellow. At sea level, the silhouetted forms of different types vessels emerged, He was particularly happy to see a cargo craft with tall mast and unfurled sail. It moved slowly past his vision. The Sun emerged from the mountain range and the sea began to sparkle. Everything became energetic awakening from its slumber. He saw couple of dolphins in their typical swim, visible for a moment and vanishing. His mind returned briefly to present and back into the past.

He was at his desk working; he looked out briefly. He realized something was about to happen. He rushed out to the gallery.” Bander Abbas Express’s” engine just died roaring. “Ro- Ro” vessel has a ramp in the aft to allow the transport vehicles to enter. The Vessel was under Pilot’s command and 3 tugs were towing her. The engine spurt led to momentum taking her on collision course with an unloading vessel in the dock.

He was excited, adrenaline pumping in his system, breathing became faster and eyes widened. He saw the monster crashing into cargo vessel alongside Ballard pier jetty. Everything else stopped briefly. The vessel swayed, rolled and pitched violently. The ropes securing the vessel strained and then broke with loud explosions. One of the manila ropes hit a truck with a violent force ripping apart the cabin of the truck; luckily the driver not inside. Another rope hit the lamp post breaking it in to two. The third hit the dock crane; unbalanced the crane and its Boom fell on the roof of warehouse.

Next he saw the wooden planks floating near the vessel. His heart missed couple of beats with the realization that on the starboard side there was a water barge. Quick commands to the Tindal of craft to look for the survivor saved 4 dazed seamen from the sea. Huge part of bulwark of the vessel ripped open. He was told it was 25 feet long and 20 feet wide gap in the vessel which looked like India in map.

Whenever, he remembers this event, he gets the goose bumps.

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