A day after oil stopped spilling from the two fuel tanks of Panamanian-registered vessel, MSC Chitra, on Tuesday, Netherlands-based firm SMIT kickstarted salvage operations.
The firm has set up an accommodation barge close to MSC Chitra to prevent more containers from falling into the sea and blocking the navigation channel. At least 350 containers fell into the sea after the two vessels collided off the city coast on Saturday, forcing the two ports to halt all operations as they pose a threat to other ships.
Officials of the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) said MSC Chitra was carrying 2,662 tonnes of fuel oil and 1,219 containers.
"It will be easier to fish out containers that are aboard rather than towing them once they fall in the sea," said Satish Agnihotri, director general of shipping.
"So far no container carrying hazardous goods have been found [to have fallen into the sea]," said an official from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.
The Chief Hydrographer and the Director General of Lighthouse and Lightships will identify and mark the sunken and floating containers, while the Mumbai Port Trust will map the locations. SMIT will then tow these containers away.
"This operation [of retrieving all containers] will take five to six days, given the need to keep the ship stable," said shipping officials.
The Salver - used to hold the ship from tilting - is also trying to stabilise the ship and pump out the remaining fuel oil, estimated to be around 2,000 tonnes.
"After all the containers are salvaged and the ship stabilised, we will undertake operations to tug the ship to the dock. This will take at least 15 days," officials said.
Meanwhile, Coast Guards continue to monitor the oil spill. Sources said five offshore patrol vessels, Chetak helicopters and Dornier aircraft are on the standby in case of any emergency.
"The civil administration across districts that could be affected have been alerted because they should be prepared to take timely action if necessary," said a Coast Guard official. “Surveys are being conducted, and if we find any remains of oil along the coast, we will use chemical dispersants."