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Sunken cargo ship sparks fear of oil spill

Almost a year after a collision between two cargo ships resulted in an oil spill along the city’s coast, our shores may be looking at a similar situation.

mumbai Updated: Aug 05, 2011 02:03 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

Almost a year after a collision between two cargo ships resulted in an oil spill along the city’s coast, our shores may be looking at a similar situation.

On Thursday, MV RAK Carrier, a bulk cargo ship, sank about 25 nautical miles away from Mumbai after water seeped into its cargo hold around 7.25am. The ship was reportedly carrying 60,054 metric tonnes of coal, 290 metric tonnes of fuel oil and 50 metric tonnes of diesel oil, which is used as a lubricant.

The state pollution control board is on guard and has asked the civic body and collector to be ready with combat mechanisms in case of any oil spill.

“We haven’t got any information that oil is leaking. The moment we are alerted, we will depute our staff to start clean up and collect water samples,” said YB Sontake, regional officer, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). The MPCB’s jurisdiction lies within 5km from the coastline.

Scientists said in case of spillage from the wrecked ship, the environmental problem would be similar to the one posed last year after MV Khalijia collided with MSC Chitra in the Mumbai harbour. MSC Chitra was carrying 400 metric tonnes of oil that spilled into the sea.

“If there is a spill, the strong monsoon winds and high tide will ensure that the oil reaches the coastline within two hours. The mangrove-seeding season has just started. If the oil gets into the mangroves, their regeneration will get affected for another year,” said Deepak Apte, marine biologist, Bombay Natural History Society. “Sedentary species such as crabs and mussels would also get affected.”

While details on the type or form of coal present in the ship is not known, scientists said it was mostly in powder form. “Coal is a heterogeneous substance comprising various elements and is not easily soluble in water. Since the sea bed will not take all of the coal, the particles will get scattered and line the shores,” said SN Ghajbiye, scientist in-charge, regional centre, National Institute of Oceanography, Mumbai. “Coal is not as toxic as oil.”

Mariners to be warned in advance of danger

HT Correspondent

Mumbai: The Director General of Shipping has asked the Mumbai Port Trust and the the National Hydrographic Officer at Dehradun to issue navigational warnings to mariners in advance of the danger from the 225-metre long sunken ship, MV RAK Carrier.

At 7.25am the operations centre of the Coast Guard received a distress call from MV RAK Carrier. They informed of an ingress into the bulk carrier.

ICGS Samudra Prahari, a pollution control ship, and ETV Smit Lumba were immediately diverted to the area to prevent the vessel from sinking.

Another merchant vessel MV Stella was diverted to assist the sinking ship.

Around 8.15am, a Sea King helicopter of the Indian Navy and a Chetak helicopter of the Coast Guard were launched for the search and rescue operations after the operation centre learnt that at least 15 crew members from the sinking vessel had jumped into the sea.

All crew members were retrieved and placed on board MV CGA CGM Puget anchored off the Mumbai harbour.

Lifeguard informed cops about MT Pavit on Sat

HT Correspondent

MUMBAI: Maintaining that there was no lapse on their part, the Santacruz police officers claimed that they had received information about a ship drifting towards the Juhu beach late on Saturday night. However, by the time police team reached the spot, the ship, MT Pavit, was nowhere to be seen.

“It cannot be called as a lapse on part of the police,” said Pratap Dighavkar, zonal deputy commissioner of police. “Senior police inspector of Santacruz police station Madhukar Chaudhari went to Juhu beach. However, the team left when they couldn’t spot the vessel. On Sunday, when the ship ran aground off the beach, the Santacruz police immediately informed the marine police and the Mumbai police control room.”

Dismissing rumours of tussles between the Santacruz and Juhu police stations pertaining to the jurisdiction in which the ship had floated, Dighavkar said, “It was Chaudhari who had first reached the spot.”

According to Chaudhari, a lifeguard at the beach had informed him about the ship around 10.30 pm. “I went to the beach. But it was very dark and probably since the engine of the ship wasn’t functioning we were unable to spot it. The sea was also rough,” he said.

Taking note of media reports regarding confusion between police stations over their jurisdiction, police commissioner Arup Patnaik has ordered the deputy commissioner of police zone 9 to submit a report.

“I want to know the facts…as to whether such a confusion had really occurred. I can comment only after receiving the report,” Patnaik said.

First Published: Aug 05, 2011 02:02 IST