Three Asian nations have turned away a Chinese owned fishing ship to offload the body of a Kenyan seafarer who died mysteriously in the cabin.
The family and the ship's agents in Mombasa said Mr Yunus Beku died aboard the vessel last Monday but they have been unable to offload the body to be airlifted to Mombasa for burial.
The family in Likoni expressed shock about the sudden death of Beku, saying before he sailed he underwent all the requisite medical examination including Covid-19 test.
"We are in shock as to what might have killed him suddenly in a far-flung nation. We are waiting for the body to inter it as per Islamic traditions," said Beku's mother-in-law Magdalene Malemba.
Malemba said that the agent of the Kenya flagged ship informed the family that Beku died suddenly as the ship was approaching Singapore. She called for a thorough investigation into his death.
- Mombasa port operations will not be interrupted during polls
- A dream deferred: How Tullow woes, Covid derailed Jubilee oil export plan
- Why youth face rough terrain in post-Covid world
- Nancy Pelosi meets Singapore leaders at start of tour
The Managing Director of Mombasa Ocean, vessel's local handling agents, Mr Did Musa told The Standard that Beku was aboard FV Lu Qing Yuan 158 vessel.
He said the report from the ship indicate that Beku who worked as a deckhand collapsed and died as they approached the Singapore waters of the Indian Ocean.
A deckhand is an employee whose duties include cleaning, mooring, and cargo handling aboard a ship.
"The master of the vessel, Mr Sun Mas Lung alerted Singapore authorities of what had transpired and requested to be allowed to move to shore to discharge the dead body for safe repatriation back to Kenya but was denied permission," Musa said.
Musa said efforts were made to seek further permission to dock at ports in Sri Lanka and Malaysia but they too denied the vessel permission to access their ports.
The body is preserved in one of the vessels purpose-built cold rooms, said Musa while condoling with the family of the deceased who included his wife and children in Mombasa.
"We are in touch with the vessel master and crew and already it has embarked on a sea cruise journey to Mauritius that has agreed to allow the vessel to dock in their island state," Musa said.
He said once the ship arrives in Mauritius the body will be transported to a hospital morgue where a postmortem examination will be carried out to ascertain the cause of death.
"Arrangements have been firmed up to have the body airlifted from Mauritius to Kenya where the deceased family will receive it," he said.
Musa said that the distance between Singapore and the Mombasa port is estimated at 4325 nautical miles (around 7,000 kilometers).
"It was going to take between 20-23 days if the vessel that cruises at a high speed of 9 knots was to attempt to come directly to Mombasa. The distance to Mauritius is much shorter," Musa explained.
Mombasa based Maritime consultant and analyst, Mr Andrew Mwangura, said that it was baffling how the seafarer died suddenly.
"We understand that he was on security duty on the fateful night and when his time to return to rest arrived, he opted to do some physical exercises around the vessel before taking breakfast," Mwangura said.
He added that the deceased who was a staunch Muslim took the Holy book and started reading it before he retired to bed.
"Eyewitness accounts say that while in his sleep, he made some noise and collapsed. The vessel master was called in and attempt d to resuscitate him after he appeared to lose breath. He never responded and succumbed," Mwangura said.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Mombasa Port Shipping Inspector, Betty Makea said that they were awaiting a full report after the postmortem is conducted.
"It is sad that a Kenyan Seafarer died at sea under very mysterious circumstances. We condole with his family and hope that the real cause of his death will be known once the postmortem results are out," she said.