The Prongs Reef lighthouse was once again abuzz with the Indian Coast Guard deploying its first-ever pollution control vessel – ICGS Samudra Prahari – after MT Sikander Singh collided with MV Cheeru, and an oil spill was reported on Saturday morning.
A host of state and central government agencies, too, swung into action with their tugs and vessels. But, unlike the August 2010 incident, when MV Chitra collided with MV Khalijia resulting in a major oil spill, the MT Sikander Singh and MV Cheeru collision was simulated.
The exercise was part of the national level pollution response project – NATPOLREX – III. The key point of reference for the exercise was the August 2010 spill that saw oil spread across four districts in Maharashtra causing extensive damage to both flora and fauna.
Vice admiral Anil Chopra, AVSM, the director general of Indian Coast Guard who reviewed the exercise said, “Increase in maritime trade could see such accidents happen in the future resulting in oil spills. It is of utmost importance for the Coast Guard to keep its operational capability efficient.”
The Coast Guard is the nodal agency for oil spill response in India. “The spill in Mumbai has ensured that we revisit our contingency plans, and has seen an exhaustive plan being laid out with recommendations put forward to various ministries and agencies,” vice admiral Chopra added.
MV Chitra being salvaged by an international firm served as an ideal platform for the exercise, as ICGS Samudra Prahari – the first-ever pollution control vessel – passed by the Prongs Reef House. The vessel commissioned in October 2010 was not part of the oil spill control team that the West Region of the Coast Guard had when the spill happened. The vessel spread its eight-metre wing and demonstrated its ability to spray the necessary amount of dispersant (chemical) to break down and neutralise the oil.
The exercise concluded with ICGS Samudra Prahari displaying its fire control ability.
Director general of Coast Guard said they had ordered for three more pollution control vessels.
The Coast Guard will also see major acquisitions in terms of ships, weaponry, surveillance systems as it has set its sights on becoming the third largest Coast Guard force in the world in the coming years.