It’s been more than seven years since Cyclone Hudhud brought Visakhapatnam to its knees. The city has since recovered fairly from those ruins and become one of the flourishing cities in South India. Its economy has grown multifold, be it through the ever-growing tourism or through the many major industries in and around the city. But despite all that, certain scars from that horrifying event are still in our minds. Recounting his escapades during Hudhud, Captain RS Kali Prasad from Vizag shares his story.
“It was that tough dark night, when our vessel MT SP Berlin, was the first to enter Vizag Port post Hud Hud. The cyclone had wreaked havoc in Vizag. I was with my family on board the Tanker vessel SP Berlin, when we felt the swell and impact right at Colombo, on the day when Hudhud made landfall at Vizag on 12 Oct 2014.
We were on a ballast passage from Hambanthota, a new Mega Port in the making, on the southern side of Sri Lanka, to Visakhapatnam Port. Upon reaching Vizag anchorage, we were shocked to see there weren’t any plants around during day and any lights during night. Rajiv Smrithi Bhavan was clearly visible and was in a state of ramshackle with blown out roof and glass panes.
We remained at anchor as there wasn’t any commercial vessel movement. Later, we were called on the night of 20 October by Vizag Port Control for berthing. We were relieved upon receiving the call as our daughter who wants to see her grand parents in Vizag after the Cyclone Hudhud. Our vessel made approach. However, we were sent back twice to anchorage after reaching close to the Pilot boarding area due to some technical problems.
The Visakhapatam Port had made excellent arrangements to light the navigational marks, leading lights, buoys, and jetties, with some rented generators, to facilitate safe channel navigation and approach to jetties. On his third attempt, our pilot came out to the pilot boarding area near the breakwaters with 2 tugs. To our utter bad luck, once our vessel entered the Channel, all the lights in the port suddenly disappeared due to some technical glitch. It was pitch dark everywhere and the whole of Bridge team was in distress. We were inside the channel and it wasn’t wide enough for us to turn back. Rising to the occasion, the pilot asked the Tug Master to report every passing point and be on the toes. It was a risky entry and the pilot managed to bring the vessel to the tuning basin. At that point in time, he felt that it is unsafe to take the vessel any further and dropped Anchor right at the Turning basin. I was worried if my vessel would hit the Hindustan Ship yard jetty. However, I appreciated the pilots decision to play safe.
Efforts were on to bring back power but without any success. The Port control and pilots were in constant touch whilst our vessel was all alone as a guest at the threshold of Hindustan Shipyard Dry Dock gate. As our vessel was in the middle of the Port channel and was obstructing naval vessel movements as well, Port has decided to berth our vessel carefully definitely a calculated eisk. Captain Venu Gopal came on board as the pilot, to berth our vessel. We heaved up of anchor and made approach with the support of tugs , we could see the channel only in the radar and few dim lights far off and some hand held flash lights. Our pilot asked us to direct our vessel search lights etc., towards the jetty where, we first saw some mooring gang waiting and waving at us for our ropes. It’s only with our ship’s lights we could see the jetty, though not clear and definitely not the safest way to moor but had no options. Tugs were holding our vessel pinned to the jetty, whilst we moored our vessel at OR1.
We could make out that all the greenery in the Visakhapatam Port is completely wiped out and the smile on the faces disappeared, not sure how much time it will take to recover from the tragedy. But rising against the odds, Vizag bounced back so well, so soon and more beautiful than ever, thanks to the numerous volunteers, leaders and administrators.”
This article is a part of Nautical Series, being published by Yo! Vizag to honour the maritime legacy of Visakhapatnam.
The piece has been put together by Captain RS Kali Prasad from Vizag. The Captain pursued Marine education from the UK. Having sailed for 22 years all around the world in different types of ships and Ranks, he hung his boots in 2017. Captain RS Kali is currently associated with Supreme Marine Tankers, a company that supplies bunkers to ships.