Mumbai oil spill spreads, PM seeks report

Two cargo ships collided on Saturday off the Mumbai coast causing an oil spill.

Updated: Aug 09, 2010, 18:18 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Mumbai: A foreign cargo ship, which collided with another vessel about 10 km off Mumbai harbour, tilted further spilling oil for the third day Monday even as Navy and Coast Guard made hectic efforts to contain the leak.

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

He said so far, 300 containers carrying oil have tumbled into the water.

There are also reports that several containers contain hazardous chemicals such as sodium peroxide, which have formed a layer over the sea surface, thereby threatening marine life.

Officials are yet to locate the leakage. The thick oil slick has been sighted two to three kms around the vessel Chitra, with some debris from the ill fated ship floating as far as to the Gateway of India.

Some containers are floating in the choppy Arabian Sea in the busy navigation channel into the Mumbai Port and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. "Traffic has been suspended as the containers are still sighted floating into the channel thus making navigation hazardous," a Coast Guard official said.

It is believed that nearly 3 tonnes of oil is seeping into the sea every hour even as efforts are on to contain the spillage at the earliest. The Navy and the Coast Guard carried out anti-pollution operations for the third consecutive day today to check and neutralise the oil spill.

According to officials, 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.

Specialists from Netherlands requisitioned

Meanwhile, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) has appointed SMIT Salvage, a Netherlands-based company to control the oil-spill off the Mumbai coast.

Confirming the development, a senior official said, “We have appointed SMIT Salvage to look after the oil-spill. The company is working there with 11 off-shore vessels out of which six vessels they received from Mumbai-based Great Offshore Limited," the port official said.

Government convenes high-level meet

Concerned over the oil spill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a report from the Shipping Ministry on the incident.

"The Prime Minister has called for a preliminary report from the Shipping Ministry on the oil spill," PMO sources said.

In Mumbai, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan conducted an aerial survey of the oil spillage.

"This is a serious issue. We have already filed cases against the captains of the two ships which are from abroad. We are trying to contain the leak as far as possible," he said after surveying the area.

A high-level meeting of the officials of the Maharashtra Environment Department, National Disaster Response Force, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Shipping department, Mumbai Port Trust and other concerned agencies has also been convened to assess the situation and formulate steps to be taken to bring it under control.

The Directorate General of Shipping has initiated an investigation into the incident, Directorate General of Shipping`s Chief Nautical Advisor M M Savvi said, "The Coast Guard and senior officials (Directorate General of Shipping) are now at the site".
Two Panamanian cargo ships -- MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia-111 -- collided on Saturday off the Mumbai coast causing an oil spill from one of the vessels.

Thirty three crew members, including two Pakistanis, were rescued following the incident.

Fishing associations have been also requested not to carry out any fishing activities till the oil spill is contained, officials said.

Deputy police commissioner Khaled Qaiser said that an FIR has been registered against captains and crew members of both the cargo ships under relevant sections of IPC and Environment Protection Act at the Yellow Gate police station.

The crew members were booked under section 280 (Rash navigation of vessel), 336 (endangering life of others) and 427 (mischief causing damage) of IPC and relevant sections of Environment Protection Act, he said.

So far nobody has been arrested, the DCP said adding that all the crew members will soon be summoned to the police station for questioning.

Additional Coast Guard Pollution Response Equipment has also been mobilised from Goa and assistance is also being taken from ONGC, JNPT and other agencies.
The state administration, Pollution Control Board, Maharashtra Maritime Board and the Bombay History Natural Society have been kept on high alert for mobilisation of response resources for shore clean up.

MSC Chitra, the outbound merchant vessel from Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT), collided with MV Khalijia-III, at 0950 hours on Saturday when the latter was sailing towards Mumbai Port Trust (MPT), off Mumbai harbour, for berthing.

The Indian captain and 32 crew members of Chitra were evacuated and the ship was grounded in the vicinity of the Prong Reef Lighthouse.