A medium-size barge from Koyala bunder, which had been smuggling crude oil from transiting ships at the outer anchorage of the Mumbai Port for the past four years, was confiscated on Monday.
Senior inspector Rakesh Sharma of the Crime Branch Control said that along with MV Jai Jagdamba (the barge), 500 litres of crude oil has been recovered.
Over 25,000 tonnes of crude is suspected to have been sold from the original cargo of the barge.
The barge owner Harish Jaiswal, 44, and his assistant Salam Shirajul Ghazi, 22, have been arrested under IPC section 285 (illegal transport of explosive substance) and Section 37 of the Essential Commodities Act. Harish’s wife, who is shown on record as the barge owner, is yet to be arrested.
According to Sharma, the 100m-barge which does not appear to be sea-worthy, was bought by Harish almost four years ago.
It had obtained a licence for ‘fishing’ and undertook sailing. The police had been tipped off a week ago. But by the time the raid was conducted, most of its cargo of 25,000 tonnes, stored in five 5,000 tonne containers had been sold.
Sharma said they would establish contact with transiting ships (ships passing by the Mumbai coast) through agents. The ship would then stop near the outer anchorage and the barge would sail from the Koyala bunder under the pretext of conducting repair works or supplying provisions. “However, they would unload crude from the ship’s fuel stock at 40% of its market price,” Sharma said.
“We are going to write to agencies such as the customs department, Central Industrial Security Force to assist in the investigation.” The seaworthiness of the vessel will also be checked.
“If barges can be used for smuggling crude from ships in high seas or at the outer anchorage, they can also be used to smuggle arms and explosives,” Sharma said.
Investigations are on to find the crude’s distribution channels in Mumbai and the similar unauthorised barges operating from Mumbai’s coast.