Foreign experts have been called in to limit the damage of the oil spill triggered by Saturday's collision between two cargo ships off Mumbai harbour as the leakage spread to new areas posing a major ecological threat to the city coastline.
As the Coast Guard and defence personnel waged a grim battle to plug the leak caused by the oil slick, Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has appointed SMIT Salvage, a Netherlands-based company, to control the spill, a senior port official said.
"We have appointed SMIT Salvage to tackle the oil spill. The company is working there with 11 off-shore vessels out of which six are from Mumbai-based Great Offshore Limited," the official said.
Another team of experts in handling maritime disasters has arrived from Singapore to assist in the salvage operations.
Two Panamanian cargo ships -- MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia-111 -- collided on Saturday off the Mumbai coast causing an oil spill from one of the vessels.
Thirty three crew members, including two Pakistanis, were rescued following the incident.
The Navy and the Coast Guards carried out anti-pollution operations for the third consecutive day today to check and neutralise the oil spill.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said the ship contained around 2,600 metric tonnes of oil. "It is believed that around 500 MT must have spilled over."
S S Dasila, Commandant (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) of Coast Guard said the oil spill posed a serious danger to maritime fauna and flora.
"MSC Chitra has tilted 80 degrees," Arun Singh, Commandant (Operations), Coast Guard said.
He said so far, 300 of the 1,200 containers on the ship have tumbled into the water.
There could be much more serious ecological implications of the accident as containers aboard MSC Chitra, which has run aground and is tilting precariously, are falling off into the sea.
At least 31 containers with hazardous chemicals including organo-phosphorous pesticides, sodium hydrochloride and pyrethroid pesticides are on board and quite a few of them might have tumbled into the sea and their contents leaked, he said.
He said the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre authorities have been asked not to use sea water for cooling purposes at the premier atomic establishment.