Parents of Kerala sailor aboard captured British ship remain optimistic

Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden with Dijo's parents

Four days after Iran captured a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, the family of a Keralite sailor aboard the vessel is anguished yet hopeful about his safe return.

Dijo Pappachan, 26, hailing from Kalamassery in Kerala's Ernakulam district is the lone identified Indian sailor among the 23 crew members aboard the ship.

Stena Impero - owned by Swedish company Stena Bulk - was captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly 'violating international maritime rules'.

Dijo's family show his picture on a smartphone.

Iran said on Sunday that all 23 crew members of the seized tanker were "safe and in good health."

The oil tanker was impounded off Bandar Abbas port hours after a court in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar said it would extend by 30 days the detention of Iranian tanker 'Grace 1' seized by British authorities in the Mediterranean two weeks ago on allegations of breaching EU sanctions against Syria.

Video footage released by Iran showed the Stena Impero being surrounded by speedboats before troops in balaclavas descend a rope from a helicopter onto the vessel.

As per international media reports, the ship's owner said it had asked Iranian authorities for permission to visit the crew and was waiting for a response.

Dijo Pappachan, 26, hailing from Kalamassery in Kerala's Ernakulam district is the lone identified Indian sailor among the 23 crew members aboard the ship.

The incident has turned into a major diplomatic row with Britain threatening to impose sanctions on Iran.

'They promised to do everything'

The news of the vessel being captured was confirmed to Dijo's parents T V Pappachan and Deena by the Mumbai office of the Stena Bulk on Friday.

“The company officials had promised to make every effort to ensure Dijo's release,” Pappachan, who works as a driver, said.

Dijo had contacted Pappachan last around 10.30 am on Friday, the day of the seizure. "He told me he was at Iran coast and his ship was heading to Saudi Arabia to take some chemical products. He told me he would call later, but there has not been any communication after that."

After receiving the call from the company, the family had feared that the ship had wrecked. However, their fears got allayed after they watched the visuals of the seizure on BBC.

Dijo's father T V Pappachan

Reports said apart from Dijo, two persons from Thripunithura and Fort Kochi are also aboard the vessel.

Pappachan said Dijo had told him about the his colleagues from Kochi, but he doesn't have their details. Asked if their families had contacted him, Pappachan said "no".

Dijo, a hotel management graduate, has been working in the ship's mess. He had completed a course in shipping and maritime from Kochi before joining the company.

Before Stena Impero in June, Dijo was working with another ship belonging to the same company.

Political pressure

Pappachan tried to contact Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Monday with the help of some local BJP leaders. “I could not talk to him as he was in Parliament,” he said.

"The External Affairs Ministry has informed us that our complaint has been received and it would take all possible steps including diplomatic-level parleys to release our son," Pappachan told Onmanorama.

Muraleedharan said on Saturday that diplomatic efforts were on to secure the release of Indian nationals on board the tanker. "We are waiting for response from Iranian authorities," Muraleedharan told reporters in Kuthiran in Thrissur.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday urged the Centre to take measures to secure the release of Indian nationals, including four Keralites on board the oil tanker. In a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, he asked the ministry to share the details of the persons aboard the ship so that their families could be helped.