Bahrain boat owner detained

Abdullah al-Qubaisi, from the Al-Dana company that owned the vessel, which sank on Thursday, will be held for seven days for questioning “on charges of unintentional murder and unintentionally causing injury,” the head of public prosecutions Nawaf Hamza said.

Mostly Indians and Britons died when the traditional boat known as banoosh, which had been chartered for a company dinner cruise, sank off the Gulf island state. Seventy-two people survived the disaster, whose victims were all foreigners.

Mr Hamza said Mr Qubaisi had admitted under questioning Tuesday that “the boat was not insured … (although) insurance is compulsory in Bahrain.”

Mr Qubaisi also “acknowledged that he rented out the boat, which also violates the license granted to him by the tourism department and which states he cannot rent out or sell” the vessel, Mr Hamza said.

The head of public prosecution said the captain and his assistant, both Indians detained a day after the incident, had also been charged with “unintentional murder and unintentionally causing injury.”

The pair would also be kept behind bars for a total of seven days to complete the interrogation, he said.

The captain “admitted he did not have a license” to operate, as did his assistant, according to Mr Hamza.

He said that investigations so far had shown the owner had told the captain to sail despite a communication between the two during which the captain reported that the vessel was overloaded and that its condition was “not normal.”

Bahraini authorities have vowed to act to improve boat safety around the Gulf archipelago following the tragedy, ordering ship owners to prove the seaworthiness of their vessels.

The coast guard command summoned all owners of passenger boats to turn up at his office on Tuesday and Wednesday with a “complete dossier” of documents such as technical safety and insurance certificates and licenses to carry passengers, as well as other permits. The wooden boat capsized almost two kilometers out to sea.

South African company Murray and Roberts and its partner Bahraini firm Nass had hired the boat to celebrate completing the shell of a US$150 million World Trade Center being built in Manama and slated to be the tallest building in the country.

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