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KARACHI, Feb 14: The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi is working to make sure that five Pakistani crew members of a Panama-flagged ship, which was detained at an Indian port for safety reasons, return home as soon as possible, officials said.

The ship was detained at India’s Visakhapatnam port over five months ago, they said.

A senior official said a formal contact between the Directorate Ports and Shipping and Indian authorities was established after the federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Babar Khan Ghori, took notice of media reports about the incident.

The official said the situation was not ‘alarming’ and the Pakistanis were expected to return home by the end of current month.

“The ship which had five Pakistani and 19 Bangladeshi crew members was detained by Indian authorities when during inspection it failed to meet the required level of safety,” said Director General, Ports and Shipping, Vice Admiral (retd) Azhar Shamim. “We have contacted the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi, located the agent of ship in Karachi and also got in touch with the Indian shipping authorities.”

Mr Shamim said information collected from different sources showed that the shipping company was also a defaulter of a Sri Lankan bank which is carrying out a process for its takeover.

“The process is likely to be completed by February 20. We have traced the company’s local agent in Karachi and asked him the company must clear six months’ salary dues of the Pakistani crew members at the earliest. The agent is in contact with crew members’ families,” the DG said, adding the Pakistani embassy was actively monitoring the situation in India.

The Pakistanis trapped in the vessel anchored at Visakhapatnam are: chief engineer Sohail Shamshad, second engineer Muhammad Luqman, third engineer Gohar Ur Rahman, chief officer S. Furqan Ali Asgari and second officer S. Jawaid Mehdi Jaidi. Earlier this week, they managed to contact their friends and families, who highlighted their plight through media.

Mr Shamim explained the crew members had not been detained, adding it was an issue with their shipping agent in India who had violated the rules. He said the Pakistanis were expected to return home by the end of this month.

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