DUBAI Fishermen in Dubai said they have been left stunned following a deadly shooting of a local fishing boat by a US Navy ship off Dubai’s coast on Monday.
They said there is no precedent of such an incident despite local fishing boats and US Navy ships being present on occasions at the same time in waters off Dubai.
One Indian crew member of the small motorboat was killed and three others badly hurt when the US ship opened fire in waters off Jebel Ali port. American officials said the ship fired on the boat after it ignored warnings to stay back, but the boat’s crew said no warnings were issued as they passed behind the ship.
“We’re baffled how this could’ve happened, I’ve been fishing off Dubai for 32 years and there’s never even been a close call,” said Indian fisherman Ganeesan, 45.
“I don’t think any warning was given, there’s been some big tragic blunder. We fishermen and navy ships frequently spot each other, we sometimes share the same general location.
“We never approach navy ships, we usually keep about a kilometre away though there’s no official rule. Navy ships are known to sound horns in the day and fire flares at night to tell others they need to be careful.”
Another Indian fisherman, 40-year-old Sheen Mohammad, said he has not heard of such an incident in his 15-year local fishing experience. “We never think about this happening to us because it has never happened before and isn’t likely to happen again,” Mohammad said.
“How can a tiny fishing boat be a threat to a giant navy ship? How can you mistake fishermen as a threat when there’s technology and intelligence to keep track of everyone out at sea?
“We fishermen feel safe going out to sea and navy ships feel safe regarding us too. But how this incident happened is a big mystery to me.”
Others said they will not be taking special precautions following the incident. “We don’t need to be extra careful as there’s no danger in the first place. Fishermen and navy ships are not unknown to each other, we all know how to do our respective jobs,” said a fisherman in Hamriya Port on condition of anonymity.
US and UAE authorities have said they are investigating the incident. According to US defence officials, personnel onboard the navy refuelling ship, USNS Rappahannock, fired machine gun rounds after “the vessel disregarded non-lethal warnings and rapidly approached the US ship” shortly before 3pm on Monday.
Survivors of the shooting have denied warnings were issued.