Mumbai harbour reopens after five days

Mumbai harbour reopened for traffic on Thursday, five days after it was suspended following a collision between two cargo ships that led to an oil spill, with the Indian Navy escorting 12 freighters in and out of the port.

Updated: Aug 12, 2010, 16:07 PM IST

Mumbai: Mumbai harbour reopened for traffic on Thursday, five days after it was suspended following a collision between two cargo ships that led to an oil spill, with the Indian Navy escorting 12 freighters in and out of the port.

The traffic resumed after the Coast Guard and other agencies involved in salvage efforts cleared the navigational channel of containers that were adrift after falling off Panaminan vessel MSC Chitra, which ran aground as a result of the Saturday crash.

"The Indian Navy commenced escorting a convoy of merchant ships to and out of Mumbai port from 1000 hours," Defence Spokesman Capt M Nambiar told a news agency.

"Seven ships have been escorted out of the harbour while five are being escorted into the harbour," he said.

The freighters were given aerial assistance in navigating the sea by a helicopter while a minesweeper ship with two survey boats equipped with sonar scanners ensured that the channel was clear for the convoy, he said.

The ships were trailed by the Indian Naval Ship `Matanga`, he said.

Two merchant vessels MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia III had collided off the Mumbai coast on Saturday. The hull of MSC Chitra loaded with 1219 containers was breached leading to the oil slick. Of the 1,219 containers, over 250 were believed to have slipped into the sea.

The huge containers, either floating or sunk, along the navigation route were retrieved to clear the channel as they posed a serious threat to vessels.

As many as 31 containers of the 1219 on MSC Chitra have hazardous chemicals, including organo-phosphorous pesticides, sodium hydrochloride and pyrethroid pesticides.

According to Coast Guard sources, an estimated 400-500 metric tonnes of oil may have spilled from the vessel which was carrying 2,662 metric tonnes of oil.

Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Mumbai Port Trust, Coast Guard and foreign experts from SMIT, a Netherlands-based company, are jointly carrying out the salvage operation.

PTI