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Ship sinking, oil spill spreads near Mumbai

Mumbai: Efforts continued on a war-footing Monday to combat the oil spill from a Panaman ship that crashed into another vessel in Mumbai harbour as it threatened to spread further along the Konkan coastline, officials said.

Hectic efforts continued to combat the oil spill spanning around two miles in the Arabian Sea, three days after Panaman cargo carrier MSC Chitra and a St. Kitts-registered ship MV Khalijia-III collided outside the Mumbai harbour, barely five km from south Mumbai.

In the biggest such operation mounted so far in the Indian sea waters, authorities have deployed five Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ships, one helicopter and one small aircraft for controlling the massive oil spill, an official said.

The affected ship, MSC Chitra, was loaded with an estimated 2,600 tonnes of oil, 300 tonnes of diesel and 89 tonnes of lubricating oil at the time of the accident. The ship has also dangerously tilted at nearly 70 degrees and nearly 30 huge containers have so far fallen off into the sea.

Some containers are floating in the choppy Arabian Sea in the busy navigation channels giving entry and exit into the country’s one of the oldest and largest ports – the Mumbai Port and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust respectively.

In view of the serious hazard the floating containers pose to vessels navigating in the area, the shipping traffic has been kept on hold for the time being.

The ships ICG Sankalp, Amrit Kaur, Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, Kamla Devi and C-145 – have joined the ICG AOPV Sangram, which was deployed since Sunday to monitor the oil spill and guide relief efforts.

A Chetak helicopter and a small Dornier aircraft were pressed into service for aerial spray of dispersants to tackle the thick oil slick.

“MSC Chitra has tilted 80 degrees and the total oil spill is nearly 50 tonnes, Arun Singh, Commandant (Operations), Coast Guard told PTI.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who surveyed the oil spill visit in a helicopter, said the oil spill was a “serious issue”. “We are trying to contain the leak as far as possible. This is a serious issue. We have already filed cases against the captains of the two ships which are from abroad,” he said.

Maharashtra Environment Minister Suresh Shetty was closeted with officials from various departments since early morning to discuss the oil spillage that threatens the Konkan coastline comprising Thane, Mumbai, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg.

“The situation is very serious and the oil slick seems to be spreading,” Shetty told IANS.

Fishermen have been requested not to go near oil spill. The Directorate General of Shipping has initiated an investigation into the incident, Directorate General of Shipping’s Chief Nautical Advisor M M Savvi told PTI, adding “the Coast Guard and senior officials (Directorate General of Shipping) are now at the site”.

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