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    It was harder than high seas, says Victor James

    KOCHI: “It was a terrible and grievous experience in my career,” Victor James Mandley, the first officer of the controversial Italian ship, said in a soft voice.James, a native of Tuticorin, told Express that though they had to spend long periods sailing at sea, it was the first time they had to anchor the ship for 77 days.“I have been sailing with different ships for the past seven years. I became a part of the Enrica Lexie crew last year. I had not experienced such an ordeal before.The atmosphere in the ship was like that of a jail, as we were confined to the ship. We were cut off from the family members even though they were staying close to us. The only way to contact the family was through the satellite phone,” James said.He added that some of the crew members could come to the land as part of the investigation.“We were produced before the Mercantile Marine Department, Police and the Kollam police station for recording our statements. Some of the crew members were taken to a private hospital in Kochi as they fell sick and suffered depression because of long stays,” James said.He added that they were not prepared for such a long stay.“Some of them fell sick as no one had stayed at a place for such long periods. But it was not any serious illness, and they recovered after getting medical aid.But it was a learning experience for our crew that anything can happen any time,” he opined.James said that the ship being anchored for such a long time did not mean that the crew members had nothing to do.“We have to do daily maintenance activities. Cleaning work was also in our daily schedule,” James said.As far as food was concerned there were no issues.“We have a chief chef and his assistants from India. Both are natives of Goa, so they cooked Indian and Italian food for us. During our stay here, we mostly had Indian food,” he added.He said that the release of the ship has brought smile on the faces of all the crew members as they can finally return home and meet their family members.