Justin Kuruvila, 28, from Kottayam, disappeared on February 7 while working on board Stream Atlantic.
A 28-year-old man from Kottayam in Kerala disappeared while on board a cargo ship, sailing from South Africa to New York. Justin Kuruvila, who worked as a kitchen assistant aboard the ship “Stream Atlantic”, was reported missing on February 7, IST, and his whereabouts remain unknown. The ship was in the Atlantic Ocean passing through Durban when the incident happened. Justin had worked on the ship for four years.
Justin, from Cheruvelippadi in Kottayam, used to call his family via WhatsApp every day. But they first noticed something was wrong on February 7, when his mother called him, and the call went unanswered. Worried, the family contacted the agency that recruited him, only to be informed that Justin was missing. “Justin’s mother left a voicemail as the call went unanswered. Who would have guessed he was missing? Rani, a relative of Justin, told TNM.
The family alleged that they had not received any information about Justin’s disappearance before contacting the company. “It was after writing to the authorities on the ship that they replied that he was missing. We received the mail on February 10,” said Thomas Cherian, another close friend of Justin.
According to the family, Thomas Chazhikkadan, Member of Parliament (MP) for Kottayam, contacted the South African Embassy about Justin’s disappearance. The ship is expected to arrive in New York in the last week of February, and the deputy is also said to have made contact with the authorities concerned.
Arjun, an employee on board the ship and also from Kottayam, called Justin’s family after contacting the company. “Arjun told us that he met Justin on February 7th and Justin looked happy. Justin told him he would report to work that day but didn’t. When he searched Justin later he couldn’t find it,” Rani told TNM.
Arjun also told the family that the ship stopped for 24 hours to search for Justin, but he was not found. “We didn’t inform his mother at first. But on February 10, the agency that recruited Justin sent him a message to let them know he was missing,” Rani said. Elegant Marine Services, the agency that hired Justin is based in Mumbai.
Recruitment agency Elegant Marine Services had sent a letter to the family, dated February 9, in which it said Justin had disappeared while serving on board.
“He was serving on our main ship MT Stream Atlantic (Marshall Islands) as General Steward, and has been missing on board Stream Atlantic since 1700 UTC Coordinated Universal Time on February 8,” the communication read. .
He also said the vessel left Durban, South Africa, on January 31, and was due to reach Bayonne, USA, on February 23, 2022. “All parties involved and the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Center Mumbai), Cape Town have been informed and at the time of writing the vessel is conducting a search operation to locate the missing GS,” he added.
Manoj Joy, community development manager for the Sailors’ Society, a UK-based maritime charity that supports sailors and their families, told TNM that Justin did not show up for work on February 7.
“An officer woke him up at 4 p.m. and Justin said he wasn’t feeling well and the officer left. The officer checked in again at 6 p.m. and found that Justin was missing. The ship anchored in the Atlantic Ocean for nearly three days to look for him,” Manoj said.
Politicians including Corporation Minister VN Vasavan, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Thomas Chazhikkadan have visited Justin’s family, pledging their support.