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Scientists, crew on NIOT ships to remain at sea as lockdown extended

A majority of scientists and crew members aboard four ships of National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) will have to wait a little longer before they can set foot on the terra firma due to extension in lockdown till May 17.

"We are trying to sign off scientists on vessel Sagar Nidhi and bring them to Chennai and Hyderabad," M.A. Atmanand, NIOT Director, told IANS.

"The Sagar Nidhi vessel has entered Tuticorin port. We will be signing off 11 scientists and take them to Chennai and Hyderabad. The remaining will remain on board. A new team of scientists will board for the next scientific mission," D. Rajasekhar, Project Director, Ship Management Group, told IANS.

About 110 persons -- both scientists and crew members - sailed out on four ships in March on a scientific mission.

As the coronavirus lockdown kicked in, the NIOT scientists and the crew were not able to return to the shore and contined with their work on sea and were hopeful of coming ashore on May 4.

However, the central government extended the lockdown by two more weeks till May 17.

The four ocean research vessels are: Sagar Nidhi (25 scientists, 30 crew), Sagar Manjusha (6 scientists, 16 crew; sailed out on March 19), Sagar Anveshika (5 scientists, 12 crew; sailed out from Vizag on March 20) and Sagar Tara (4 scientists, 13 crew; sailed out on March 22 from Beypore, Kerala).

According to Rajasekhar, vessels Sajar Manjusha and Sagar Anveshika are in the Bay of Bengal whereas Sagar Tara was carrying out a survey in Lakshadweep Islands.

Rajasekhar said the ships are adequately stocked with supplies while the scientists and the crew are in touch with their family members.

"Their morale is good," he said.