Passenger ferry sunk by powerful blast

[TamilNet, Sunday, 25 July 1999, 09:18 GMT]
A passenger vessel the "Newco Endurance" which plied between Trincomalee and Muttur was sunk in the eastern harbour when a powerful bomb exploded around 3.30 a.m. this morning.

The captain of the ship, Arulnayagam, was killed in the incident. Navy divers found his body later on in the morning.

At that time of blast, five crew members were also in the vessel. Four escaped, the watchman of the ship, Shanmuganathan, with slight injuries. He has been admitted to the Trincomalee hospital.

Security sources blamed the Liberation Tigers for the blast. They said that a Sea Tiger suicide member could have placed a bomb beneath the vessel which was anchored at the Trincomalee jetty. They said that the body of the suicide bomber was found by navy divers.

An officer, who does not wish to be identified, said that the body which the navy divers found was that of the ship's captain.

The Trincomalee harbour police station and the customs office are also situated inside the jetty compound. At the time of the explosion, a vessel belonging to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority was anchored on the left hand side of the jetty.

There was no damage to any of the other buildings or vessels in the jetty compound.

The jetty belongs to Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). Ports Authority officials conducted inquiries and submitted reports stating that the bomb had been placed between the vessel and the pier, sources said. SLPA sources said that the pier was damaged and that it could not be used until repairs had been completed.

The vessel, Newco Endurance, is owned by a Tamil businessmen, Balamoorthy. It previously had Navy permission to transport passengers between Jaffna and Trincomalee town. When the Navy withdrew permission the ferry was lying redundant in the port.

In July 1998 authorities gave Muttur co-operative society permission to hire the vessel and run a passenger service between Trincomalee and Muttur.

However, by May 1999, the management of Newco Endurance terminated its agreement with Muttur co-operative society stating that the hire price it was paid was not enough.

When other passenger-boats that plied between Trincomalee and Muttur went out of order, officials from the Trincomalee divisional secretariat approached the management of Newco Endurance.

Last Monday the Newco Endurance resumed the passenger service between Trincomalee and Muttur on its own.

According to sources at the divisional secretariat, the Navy was at first reluctant to give Newco Endurance permission to operate the service but gave in after pressure from civilian authorities.


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