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Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Environmentalists Criticize Administration For Not Sending In Divers To Cap The Breach In The Sunken MV Rak Carrier

   As the oil spill from the sunken MV Rak Carrier continues to threaten fisheries and mangroves, the question being asked all around is why did the authorities not take prompt and adequate measures to plug the source of the leak. 
    A thin layer of lubricant oil was first spotted at the spot where the bulk carrier went down on Friday. Since then, oil patches have appeared in parts of Mumbai and Raigad district. Yet, the country's shipping and security agencies have focused on damage control and not on closing the breach in MV Rak, which rests on the seafloor at a depth of about 35 to 40 metres. The argument the agencies give in their defence is that the ship's insurance company should bear the cost of the effort. 
    "They should have at least sent in a diver to find out the source of the leak and then plugged it. But since Saturday, the authorities are only engaged in damage control," said Sumaira Abdulali, a city-based environmental activist. 
    Across the world, whenever there is an oil spill 
from a sunken ship, expert divers are used, if possible, to detect the source of the breach and cap it. A few years ago, a team of 12 US Navy-contracted divers closed an oil leak from a sunken World War II ship in Pacific Ocean. 
    MV Rak Carrier, which sank on Thursday about 20 nautical miles off Prongs Reef Light House in Colaba, is carrying 60,054 tonnes of coal, 290 tonnes of fuel oil, 49 tonnes of diesel and 4 tonnes of lubricant oil. 
    The directorate general of shipping says it is waiting for the insurance company to agree to foot the bill before sending in expert divers. 
    SB Agnihotri, director general of shipping, said: "Now that the rate of oil leak has reduced we expect the spill to stop completely. So we would like to take 
    some time and carry out the diving 
    operation smoothly instead 
of hurrying it up. The insurance company, meanwhile, is in talks with the salvage company and it will send expert divers in a day or two." A g n i h o t r i added: "If the fuel tanks are intact, we will try to pull out the remaining oil. It is the insurance company that will bear the costs of sending the expert divers." 
    Officials from the Coast Guard say it is likely that the ship's cargo of oil would spill out in the coming days since the source of breach has not been identified. They also criticize the directorate general of shipping for not carrying out its responsibility of sorting out the issue with the insurance company and appointing expert divers. 
    Environmentalists argue that considering the larger interest of the city, the authorities should not wait to sort out the finances. "By the time the insurance company will appoint divers the damage would be done. What's the point in sending them into the sea, when the oil has leaked already?" said Deepak Apte, a marine biologist with the Bombay Natural History Society. 

Times View 
The authorities are completely at sea with the Rak oil spill. When the ship, carrying tonnes of coal and oil, sank on August 4, it was evident that an environmental disaster was on hand. Yet the coast guard and the shipping directorate kept downplaying the scenario; government research institutes only sailed with the tide. Why weren't deep-sea divers deployed to plug the leak? Why wasn't any attempt made to suck out the oil from the sunken ship? The answers lie as much in a lack of essential equipment as in laxity and perhaps a criminal abandonment of responsibility.

BLIGHTED SHORE: The effects of the Rak oil spill on Gorai beach has forced away the scores of visitors who frequent the place


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