Away from lockdown, ocean scientists, vessel crew all at sea
With India under a 21-day COVID-19 lockdown, about 110 persons - scientists and crew members - on board of four research vessels belonging to National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) have decided to wait it out on the water carrying out their work, said a top official.
"Owing to lockdown, the crew and the scientists have decided to stay onboard till April 14. There is sufficient food stock onboard for them till that date," M.A. Atmanand, NIOT Director told IANS.
Given the coronavirus scare across the country, the scientists and the vessel crew are in constant touch with their family members over satellite phone and WhatsApp.
"We have asked the scientists and the crew to be in touch with their family members at least twice in a day. We are also in constant touch with their family members on shore," D. Rajasekhar, Project Director, Ship Management Group told IANS.
The four ships ocean research vessels are: Sagar Nidhi (25 scientists, 30 crew, sailed out a month ago), Sagar Manjusha (scientists 6, crew 16, sailed out on March 19), Sagar Anveshika (scientists 5, crew 12, sailed out from Vizag on March 20) and Sagar Tara (scientists 4, crew 13, sailed out on March 22 from Beypore, Kerala).
According to Rajasekhar, all the vessels are stocked with food for 20 days and replenishments will be made at the outer anchor at Chennai and Cochin port on April 8.
The vessels and scientists have been deployed for different purposes like the laying down of tsunami warning systems, bathymetric surveys, scientific study for desalination projects (off Lakshadweep islands) and others.
The four ships will call on different ports - Goa, Chennai, Tuticorin - all around mid-April.
Two researchers from the US are also onboard one of the ships and they would continue their work as flights have been grounded due to the coronavirus lockdown. IANS