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Ports may reopen today

mumbai Updated: Aug 12, 2010 01:23 IST
Sayli Udas Mankikar

Traffic at two of India’s busiest ports — Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and Mumbai Port Trust (MPT) — which was suspended on Saturday after a collision between two merchant vessels is likely to restart on Thursday.

On Saturday, MSC Chitra collided with the MV Khalijia – III. About 400 cargo containers fell into the sea and 879 tons of oil from the Chitra’s ruptured tanks spilled out.

“After talks with the Coast Guard and Navy, it seems that restricted navigation will start on Thursday,” said Ports Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who sailed to the spot where the Chitra is marooned on Wednesday.

More than 31 ships are stranded at MPT as they can’t leave till operations resume; more than 37 are waiting to enter the port. At JNPT, eight vessels are stranded; 80 are waiting to dock.

But what is worrying the government is the fuel shortage that the state may have to face if port traffic does not resume in a day or two. “Containers are being salvaged and the affected area will be cordoned off so that ships can pass. I don’t think we [will have to deal with a fuel crisis],” Vikhe-Patil said.

On Wednesday, the waters were abuzz as the INS Yamuna surveyed the channel where the Chitra is marooned. Naval and Coast Guard ships fitted with sonar systems were tracking submerged containers. Huge crane ships circled the Chitra, lifting containers and putting them on a barge bound for JNPT.

“So far, three sunken containers have been identified and 10 to 15 of the containers have been secured,” said the Directorate-General Shipping.

The site will be cordoned off with mooring buoys that will also tie down floating containers. Yellow buoys will act like warning signs to passing ships. Stabilising the Chitra could take up to two months.

Meanwhile, fish samples collected at Sassoon Dock, Sewri and Bhaucha Dhakka were found contaminated, stated the Directorate-General of Shipping.

The lots — weighing 500 kg in all — from which the contaminated samples were found were dumped.

Civic officials said they collected samples from Dadar, Borivli, Kandivli and Fort markets. “The samples were sent for testing,” said Deepak Kamat, assistant commissioner, Market Department.

Twelve containers from the Chitra were found adrift. Four or five washed up on the Raigad coast. Deputy Superintendent of Police R.D. Shinde said 40 bottles of fumigants were found at Navakhar. The bottles had danger signs and ‘poison’ written on them. According to the labels, they contained ‘Quickphos Tablet, RTC-Quickphos Aluminium Fumigant’ manufactured by a Worli company.

Shinde said the bottles seemed to be from the Chitra. Similar bottles were found at Bodni. From the analysis of water samples collected so far, no contamination from hazardous chemicals was found.