A fresh oil spill, probably from a Mongolian ship that sank last month, has blackened part of the Orissa coastline in an area close to the nesting site of rare Olive Ridley sea turtles, say experts.
A team of two scientists of the Dehradun-based government-run Wild Life Institute of India (WII) said they visited some areas of the coastline Monday and found a fresh oil spill over a one-and-a-half kilometer stretch near Paradip port.
Basudev Tripathy, one of the WII scientists, said the oil spill appears to be very fresh.
"We spotted an oil spill some 10 km south of Paradip port. It seems very fresh. It was along a one-and-a-half km stretch of the beach," Tripathy told IANS.
"We have collected samples for tests," he said.
Tripathy and his scientist colleague B.C. Chaudhury had gone to the site as part of their routine survey on endangered Olive Ridley turtles that come to the area to breed around this time every year.
A local forest official, Saubhagaya Sahoo, also said black oil was seen floating on the sea surface a few kilometers away from the port area for the past three-four days.
Paradip port authorities, however, said they do not have any information about a fresh oil spill.
"We are not aware of any fresh oil spill. It might be the old oil spill," port's deputy chairman Biplav Kumar told IANS.
The vessel, under a Mongolian flag, ran aground Sep 9 in the harbour area off the port in Jagatsinghpur district, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, with 924 tonnes of furnace oil and about 25,000 tonnes of iron ore fines.
Twenty-seven crew members were on board. All but a Ukrainian engineer, whose body was found 10 days later, were rescued.
The spot where the ship went down is close to the Gahirmatha marine sanctuary, one of the world's few remaining nesting sites for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles.
If the oil spill spreads, it could pollute the marine environment and pose a serious threat to the turtles, wildlife experts have warned.
The port authorities said out of the 924 tonnes of oil, 900 tonnes are inside a double bottom tank fully secured. They said it was very safe and could not escape easily.
The port authorities however admit that small quantities of oil have started oozing out since Sep 21.
The port Sep 26 awarded the contract to the Visakhapatnam-based J. Enterprises and Dives for work to plug air vents, sounding pipes and other holes to ensure that there is no oil leakage from the ship.
However, the work was disrupted for several days due to adverse sea conditions. The plugging work re-started Monday.
The port authorities last month floated a tender for taking out oil from the sunken vessel. The last date for submission of bids for taking out oil was Oct 5. The tender has not yet been finalised.
One port trust vessel with oil containment booms and skimmers has been deployed near the sunken vessel to tackle the spilled oil along with a Coast Guard vessel, the port authorities said.