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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Major oil spill feared as ships collide off city

Mumbai: A cargo ship grounded at a worrying 25-degree tilt and discharging three to four tonnes of oil by the hour after a collision with another vessel barely five nautical miles off the city's coast in the morning kept the navy, coast guard and port officials on high alert all of Saturday.
    Around 9.50 am, Panamanian container vessel MSC Chitra, while leaving JNPT's Nhava Sheva port, collided with the inbound MV Khalijia-3, which was involved in another mishap off Mumbai on July 18. It had been recently repaired and crew and salvagers were taking it to the port when the col
lision took place in the vicinity of the Prongs Reef Lighthouse, said coast guard officials, adding that the situation has become very serious.
    "Four Chitra crew members who were asked to stay aboard to help in the salvage operations deserted the ship at 7.30 pm. Even the salvagers have left the scene,'' said one.
    The impact of the collision, according to eyewitnesses, was so huge that containers from MSC Chitra were hurled into the sea and oil began to leak from the vessel. Thirty-three crew members were rescued by Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) workers and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC).
A struggle to contain oil spill
Coast Guard & Port Authorities Do Not Have Enough Equipment To Tackle Slick

Mumbai: Hours after the collision off Mumbai's coast on Saturday, MbPT chairperson Rahul Asthana said one of the ships, MSC Chitra, was leaking tonnes of oil. The coast guard, JNPT and MbPT do not have enough equipment to contain the slick. The coast guard has launched a helicopter with an anti-pollution dispersion spray system to tackle the spill. The grounded Chitra poses a serious threat to the navigational channels for other ships entering Mumbai's ports.
    According to senior officials, carelessness on the part of the port authorities as well as the captains was responsible for the accident as both ships were communicating on different radio frequencies. "The pilot boats were not present when the accident took place. While Chitra was on VHF 13, Khalijia-3 was using VHF 12 There was no communication between the ships.''
    Confirming it, an MbPT official said, "No one can explain how the staffers of both the ships failed to see each other. From the initial reports, we are told that the MSC Chitra was using a different signal frequency.''
    Asthana said, "Singapore-based sal
vagers were working on Khalijia-3, which has been brought to the Mumbai port.''
    On July 18, Khalijia-3, which was carrying steel coils, was grounded off the coast when water entered its hold through a leak. There were fears of an oil slick as it was carrying 728 metric tonnes of fuel and diesel. At the time, officials had raised concerns about the vessel blocking navigational channels of other ships.
    Despite the risk, there were no safeguards in place resulting in Saturday's
collision. The MbPT has roped in five barges for the fuel to be drained, and a naval architect has been sent aboard Chitra. The director general of shipping has initiated a probe into the accident. The 33 crew members from Chitra were handed over to the ship's agent in Mumbai.
    One crew member said: "The port officials are to blame for this. The incident could have been avoided if the captains had been cautious.''
8.30 AM | Panamanian container vessel MSC Chitra starts moving out of Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JnPT). It is headed to Mundra port in Gujarat
    Around the same time, crew and salvagers begin preparations to bring in the recently repaired St Kitts' vessel Khalijia-3 into JnPT. The had been grounded off Mumbai's coast in an accident on July 19
    The ships are on different radio frequencies. MSC Chitra is on VHF 13 and Khalijia-3 is on VHF 12 9.50 AM | There is no communication, and the two ships collide in the vicinity of Prongs Reef Lighthouse
    Chitra starts leaking hydraulic oil 10 AM | A message is sent to the Indian Coast Guard Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre 10.45 AM | The Coast Guard sends its ship Kamladevi to the scene. The Mumbai Port Trust (MbT) sends tugs to rescue the crew aboard Chitra.
BETWEEN 10.45 AM AND 1 PM | 33 crew members are rescued, but four are left on board to help in the salvage and dewatering operations
    The MSC Chitra has tilted to 25 degrees and is discharging two to three tonnes of oil by the hour
    Khalijia-3 has been brought to the Mumbai Port 7.30 PM | The 4 crew members desert the ship. There is no sign of the Singapore-based salvage company that has was brought in earlier in the day to help with the operations
At 1 pm, a Coast Guard helicopter arrives with an anti-pollution dispersion spray system. A naval architect is also sent aboard the ship
    MbPT has also roped in five barges for the fuel to be drained from Chitra
    A salvage company is also brought in

The listing MSC Chitra disgorges tonnes of oil into the Arabian Sea off the Mumbai coast

ON DANGEROUS WATERS: The MSC Chitra is leaking two to three tonnes of oil by the hour after it collided with Khalijia-3 on Saturday morning. On July 18, Khalijia-3 was grounded off Mumbai's coast after it sprouted a lea


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