Kochi: The tension on the high seas in the Middle East over geopolitical issues involving a few countries has personal ramifications for the families of crew members. It is said 18 of the 23 crew onboard 'Stena Impero', the British oil tanker seized by Iran last week, are Indians and of them three are reportedly Keralites. Even as diplomatic-level talks are on to release the tanker, the kin of the crew keep their fingers crossed in their homes.
Vithal Shenoy and Shyamala, who are based at Irumpanam, near Thrippunithura, on the outskirts of Kerala's Kochi city, are worried that they are yet to get any fresh information about their son Siju V Shenoy, chief engineer of 'Stena Impero'.
Siju had called them on Friday. Now, the parents are waiting for his next phone call. They are however optimistic since the company officials have informed them that Siju is safe. Moreover, the Iranian embassy in India has said that all the crew members are safe and in good health.
Siju had told them that he was on his way to the Port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. Siju regularly calls every evening, and while they were waiting for his call, they got a phone from his company later in the night at 11:45. A company official told them that Siju is on the tanker seized by Iran. Though they are anxious, they are hopeful that their son will call soon and nothing will happen to him.
Though four days have passed since the tanker was seized, other than news from media, they have no other source of information. The company authorities have repeatedly assured them that nothing will happen to the crew. When the company informed them about the seizure, the parents did not share the information to even close relatives.
Siju has been working as marine engineer on 'Stena Impero' for the past four years. He has been working in the field for the past 19 years.
Relatives said that Siju was home for a holiday last month and had returned on June 14.
Another Keralaite onboard the vessel was identified as Dijo Pappachan, 26, of Kalamassery in Kochi. A video clip from the vessel released by Iran's state TV the other day shows the crew members, including Dijo, on the ship.
Dijo's parents T V Pappachan and Deena contacted the Mumbai office of the Stena Bulk, the Sweden-based owner of the vessel, on Friday.
“The company officials had promised to make every effort to ensure Dijo's release,” Pappachan, who is a driver, said.
Dijo had contacted his father last around 10:30am on Friday, the day of the seizure. "He told me he was near the 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."
The third Malayali is reportedly from Fort Kochi.
The tanker was seized by Iran from the Strait of Hormuz on Friday.
Meanwhile, the company that owns the tanker had written to Teheran seeking permission to meet the crew members. The company on Monday informed them that it has not got any reply from the Iranian authorities.
The seizure of the 'Stena Impero' in the Strait of Hormuz - the world's most important waterway for the oil trade - has deepened a crisis between Tehran and the West that was triggered in May when Washington tightened sanctions, effectively barring all countries from buying Iranian oil.
Britain called on Iran on Monday to release the tanker and its crew immediately, describing the seizure as illegal.