DUBAI // Two sailors fought desperately to stay alive adrift in the Arabian Gulf for three days after their cargo vessel sank in rough seas off the coast of Ajman.
The two men had no food or drinking water and only their life jackets and flotation rings saved them from drowning.
The captain, 32, and a seaman, 26, from the Dhima were eventually pulled from the sea alive on Sunday morning. The body of another seaman was also recovered, and three remain missing.
The rescued men "are obviously in shock and do not even know the rest of the crew is missing or one is dead", said a representative of the Ajman company that owns the vessel.
The Malaysia-flagged vessel was sailing from Ajman to Iran to load a cargo of crude oil when it sank on the morning of December 27. All the crew were Indian nationals.
"Their three days of experience is heart-wrenching," the company representative said.
"I haven't been able to sleep after hearing their story of how they survived. Every hour, we are anxiously waiting for the rest of the crew to be found. We want them to be safe.
"We do not care that the ship has sunk or even know the exact location where it went down. Our crew's safety is our priority. We are in touch with the missing men's family. This is a very difficult time for us."
He said the two men had drifted away from each other and were found separately.
"When the seaman was rescued, the captain did not recognise him since he had completely turned black and was in poor shape. It was after he gave his name, the captain realised he was part of his crew."
The captain was discharged from Rashid Hospital on Sunday and is completing police formalities. The seaman is still receiving medical treatment.
The company representative last spoke to the captain early on the morning of the sinking when the vessel was 10 nautical miles from Ajman.
"I was fast asleep when I received the last call from them around 1.45am. They told me they were losing control since the weather was rough and the waves were very high.
"I asked them to proceed to the closest port, Al Hamriya, or land, and said I would take care of permissions. When I called Hamriya Port, the authorities said the ship could come in.
"But when I tried calling the ship five minutes later, it was switched off. Initially, I thought it could be out of range, but later I understood something was wrong."
He said he could not believe the vessel had sunk. "It did not have any cargo. It was going to get crude oil."
Lt Col Abdullah Al Mazyoud, head of the ports police in Dubai, said the report of the missing ship had come to the attention of Dubai Police "a bit late". He said the two surviving sailors had fought for their lives for three days, but managed to hold on to their passports.