Six Coast Guard ships — Sankalp, Sangram, Amrit Kaur, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Kamla Devi and C-145 — along with three Chetak helicopters and two Dornier aircraft are battling to contain the oil spill caused by the collision of merchant vessels MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia – III on Saturday.
S.P.S. Basra, inspector-general of the Coast Guard, said: "Because MSC Chitra was listing dangerously and containers were falling off at periodic intervals earlier, we could not cordon off the area and suck the oil out."
Containment and recovery of spilled oil is not feasible because of the weather and tidal conditions. "The collision occurred in an area where tidal patterns change every six hours. Chemical dispersants were the only option," said Basra.
The slick, according to aerial surveys, has spread across a radius of 1.6 km. The helicopters and Dornier aircraft have sprayed more than 200 litres of dispersants across the area. "This has cleared most areas," said Basra. Dispersants convert the thick oil slick into granules, which either sink or get washed ashore. "The chemical properties of the granules have to be analysed to understand how hazardous they are," said Basra.
Mumbai Port Trust has roped in SMIT Salvage — a renowned salvage firm — to join the clean-up. Basra said the containers have stopped falling off the MSC Chitra. The Coast Guard will decide on Tuesday whether it’s safe to send men on the ship.