With two explosions on Korean chemical vessel Royal Diamond-7 within a week in March, the efficiency of the firefighting apparatus at the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has come under the scanner.
The Korean ship had come to Mumbai from Taiwan on March 16 and was to go to Kandla Port in Gujarat via Mumbai. There was an explosion on the ship on March 17, which injured three men.
On March 24, while 14 Indian workers and six foreigners were working on the ship, another explosion killed a Korean national and injured six.
Despite MbPT’s efforts, 16,000 litres of foam had to be used strategically by BMC firefighters helped bring the fire under control. The civic workers, however, could assist only as the ship was parked at the jetty and was not in the high seas.
Mohan Chandran, public relations officer, MbPT, said the port had an auxiliary set up which was capable of handling and countering any eventuality. “We seek help from other companies only when required. A panel has submitted a report following the Royal Diamond-7 fire. Required steps will be taken based on the recommendations in the report,” he claimed.
Sources, however, alleged that the lack of will of the higher-ups in upgrading the existing system was partly responsible for the problem. Moreover, several posts of the port’s fire department have been lying vacant for long. Also, the procurement of fire tenders and ambulances is entangled in a tedious tendering process, they alleged.
“On some occasions, the injured are rushed to the hospital in jeeps, as no ambulances are available at Pir Pau and Haji Bunder jetties,” sources alleged. Though the MbPT is capable of fighting fire in the seas, in case of big accidents and strained apparatus, help is sought from the fire brigade, Tata Fire Services, Ageies and the BARC.
Of all the jetties, only Butcher Island and Princess Dock have advanced firefighting equipment, which is used in case of an eventuality. In fact, three of the four fire tenders at Butcher Island, too, are constantly under repair and should be disposed of, said the source. But, instead of upgrading the resources, the port authorities got an RTO extension to use one of the outdated vehicles till July 31.
Explaining the reason behind it, port fire and safety officer PP Bhonde said, “We have floated tenders for new fire engines. As the rule permits only the use of Euro IV engines in Mumbai, we are facing a problem. So, we requested the high court to allow us to use the existing fleet till we get new vehicles.”