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Navy airdrops commandos to anchor burning merchant ship off Bengal coast

Four marine commandos of the Indian Navy and four officers of the ship, MV SSL Kolkata, who were winched down from a helicopter for the operation, managed to anchor the ship.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2018 07:14 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Though the fire was still raging, the ship was anchored 18 nautical miles from the Bengal coastline.(Indian Navy)

In a daring operation, marine commandos of the Indian Navy on Saturday started the engine of a burning cargo ship off the Bengal coast and tried to steer it towards deeper waters, but were forced to abandon the mission following four explosions on board.

The four officers of Marcos, the special forces unit of the Navy, and four officers of the ship MV SSL Kolkata, who were winched down from a helicopter onto the ship, however, managed to anchor the vessel the vessel that had been drifting since it caught fire on Wednesday night.

The 22-member crew tried all night to douse the fire in the cargo area but had to abandon the ship, and were rescued by the coast guard on Thursday morning; they were taken to Haldia port in east Midnapore district of West Bengal.

The ship was carrying containers from Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh to Kolkata port when an explosion in one of the containers started the fire. It had on board 10,683.51 tonnes of cargo in 464 containers

Navy helicopters carried the Marcos team from Visakhapatnam to the Kalaikunda air force station in Midnapore from where the operation was coordinated on Saturday morning, S K Dey, naval officer-in-command, INS Netaji, said in Kolkata.

“The commandos entered the burning ship armed with thermal imaging devices and other equipment. Four officers of MV SSL Kolkata were later winched down. They managed to start the engine so that the ship could be taken further away from the coastline. However, while the operation was on there were four successive explosions. The operation had to be stopped, but the team managed to lower the anchor before evacuation,” said Dey.

Although the fire was still raging, the ship was anchored 18 nautical miles away from the Bengal coastline. Had it continued to drift, the ship could have come close to the Sundarbans tiger reserve or entered Bangladesh waters. The last images indicated that the fire had covered almost 70% of the cargo area.

There was no sign of an oil spill until 11.30 am on Saturday when the commandos left the ship.

First Published: Jun 16, 2018 17:30 IST