Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)


Beginning July 2018, severe floods affected the south Indian State of Kerala, due to unusually high rainfall during the monsoon season. It was the worst flooding in Kerala in nearly a century. Around 500 people died, 25 were missing. At least a million people were evacuated, mainly from Chengannur, Pandanad, Aranmula, Aluva, Chalakudy, Kuttanad and Pandalam. All the 14 districts of the State were placed on red alert. According to Kerala government, one-sixth of the total population of the State had been directly affected by the floods and related incidents. The Indian government had declared it a Level 3 Calamity, or "calamity of a severe nature". It is the worst flood in Kerala after the great flood which happened in 1924.

35 out of the 54dams within the state were opened for the first time in history. All five overflow gates of the Idukki Dam were opened at the same time, for the first time in 26 years. Heavy rains in Wayanad and Idukkicaused severe landslides and left the hilly districts isolated.The situation was regularly monitored by the Prime Minister, and the National Crisis Management Committee coordinated the rescue and relief operations.

The State of Kerala and all walks of its operations suffered extensively due to floods and their collateral impact during August 2018. The State and allits people without any difference as to political affiliations, caste and creed wholeheartedly took part in the R&R (relief & rehabilitation) phase. The citizens and polity of this great State pet-named God's Own Country came together as one and did a phenomenal job to mitigate the impact of the disaster.

Families stranded and isolated by flood water in their houses getting transported by road to rehabilitation camps

LOTS Shipping Limited ("LOTS") and its sister company Master Shipyard Private Limited ("MSPL") engaged and intervened in a much larger space as first responders with boats and personnel at some critical locations. While our intervention could be just a drop in the ocean of the overall requirements, we are proud to say that we played our part of Corporate Social Responsibility ("CSR") which was universally applauded by friends, partners, relatives and associates far and near.

LOTS had to identify team who are well-trained in dewatering and decontaminating of wells in the Kallisseri (Chenganur) area on the banks of the Pamba where well water was an important source and critical in normalizing the lives of the communities on its banks.

Company of Master Mariners of India ("CMMI") initiated the first response to the tragedy early on the 16th of August 2018 when the depth and scale of the tragedy was still very much unknown and was still unfolding right before our eyes.

LOTS' efforts were triggered by a call from CMMI member Capt. Hari Kumar early on the 16th morning. The request was for boats in the furiously flooding areas at and near Aluva. This was followed by calls from Capt. Jacob Thomas and Capt. Benny, once the initial requirements were posted on the CMMI WhatsAppgroup. Operational control was vested with Capt. Jacob with Capt. Benny handling boats load out on the ground. The first boat was loaded out by 10:30 a.m. and managed to reach Desom (near Aluva) by noon. The boat crew and fire force travelled in the truck and were directed as per urgencies declared by the District Administration. The first boat was directed to Desomto rescue the affected communities along the Periyar Club road.

The second and third boats left almost immediately with effective mobilization of trucks by Capt. Jacob and Capt. Benny. These boats commenced rescue operations and Kaladi and Chalakudi by the 16th afternoon.

The first boat commenced operations at Desom on the Periyar club road and had a reach upto the PeriyarTheeramapartments on the river side. Capt. Philip Mathews, MD of LOTS, positioned himself at this location as it seemed to have the maximum navigational challenges with narrow roads, constantly shifting currents and underwater obstructions. LOTS made about 16 trips down the road and worked till about 22:00 hours when the Kerala Fire Force determined that it was too dangerous working any longer with flash lights in the increasing current with a very exhausted crew . The Fire Force rescued more than 100 marooned people using the boats. We lost the anchor which would have been very useful to control the boat. It got fouled under some concrete covers of the drains.

Boats boarded on trucks to head towards rescue sites

The second boat which worked at Kaladi performed the best doing more than 25 trips all the way to 17thAugust morning when it was released after suffering some engine damage. On the way back this boat attempted another rescue of 5 people clinging to a capsized boat near Angamali. While the people were saved, the boat suffered further hull damage after being pieced by a underwater telephone pole. This boat under the intense efforts of the fire force rescued more than 150 people in Kaladi.

The third boat worked at Chalakudi but did not manage more than 6 trips as she suffered engine damage and returned.

The rescue mission sites were not the rivers, but the public roads immersed in water !

In total, the boats deployed at the instance of LOTS rescued more than 300 stranded people. The rescue efforts were directed and managed by the Kerala Fire Force. The crew put in to service only operated and navigated the boats as directed by the Fire Force. All rescue was accomplished by the Fire Force which did a yeoman job. LOTS wasable to witness the contribution of the Fire Force which in fact gave it the comfort that we are in good hands when some similar calamity strikes again in future, God forbid.

The next phase of intervention as envisaged above was in providing relief and rehabilitation. LOTS mobilized our cleaning teams on the 20th August for the Desom area in Aluva. The equipment consisting of high pressure washers with accompanying generators attempted to accomplish the cleaning of the home interiorswhich were largely flooded with deposit of silt. However, the team soon realized that home-owners preferred manual cleaning with equipment like shovels and swabs. The LOTS' intervention in cleaningwas, therefore, not very successful and the team withdrew the same day from the operation. LOTS then quickly mobilized for the cleaning phase where we found a critical need in dewatering and de-contaminating wells. We received requests from Kallissery area (Chenganur) where there was a critical need for the efforts on the banks of the Pambariver. Communities on these banks largely depended on the excellent well water available which now needed to be made usable.

Gensets being mobilized for LOTS' rescue operations

Our equipment consisted of a 32 KVA generator set coupled with a 15 HP submersible pump. We mobilized on the 24th August and, after a slow start, pushed ahead with dewatering and decontaminating wells from the 25th August onwards at a fast phase. We continuedwith this operation till the demand for the service was fully met in Kallissery before moving to other areas where there could be people looking forward to the same service and expertise.

Almost all management personnel and operations staff at both LOTS and MSPL supported and/or personally took part in the relief, rescue and rehabilitation jobs.

Gensets and motors mobilized by LOTSen route rescue sites

De-watering led by LOTS and MSPL in progress

To confront challenges to hygiene which is a casualty in these kind of situations, LOTS/MSPL mobilized 50,000soap tablets for distribution by various NGOs in and around Ernakulam.

Additionally the staff at LOTS/MSPL mobilized one day's salary which included an equivalent contribution by the companies towards the Chief Minister's Disaster Relief Fund.

The relief & rescue efforts of LOTS were a just continuation of its imbedded corporate philosophy and unwritten pledge of "touching lives" in everything it does.

Mother Nature is a great equalizer. All of us, the rich and the poor, those in power and the common man, are no different in front of nature.Human species is the only one of nature's creations which seeks to confront,conflict and disrupt nature. This misalignment of our species with nature must stop or humanity will be faced with further 'pushbacks' by nature in future too.

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