Oil leak from ship stops, environmental concerns remain

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 00:29

Mumbai: The oil spill from one of the two
Panamian cargo ships which ran aground stopped today, three
days after they collided off Mumbai coast in a big relief but
environmental concerns remained over spread of the oil slick
and presence of toxic chemicals in the waters.

"The leakage of oil from the ship (MSC Chitra) has
stopped on its own," S P S Basra, IG Coast Guard (Western
Region) told PTI.

Preliminary investigations launched by the Directorate
General of Shipping (DGS) have indicated navigational error
and failure of radio communication between the two vessels as
possible reasons for the mishap on Saturday.

The development in the evening came even as foreign
experts were called in to limit the damage of the oil spill
as the leakage spread to new areas posing a major ecological
threat to the city coastline.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also sought a status
report from the Shipping ministry on efforts to contain the
the oil spill which paralysed shipping activities in Mumbai
harbour for three days.

"It is observed that in the last six hours, the fuel
from the ship tank has stopped coming out. So, it is a relief
kind of thing," Basra said as coastguards battled choppy
seas and strong winds to contain oil from the badly listing
container ship leaking into the sea for the third consecutive
day.

According to official sources, it may take several weeks
to clear the waters of the oil slick which had reached some
areas south of Mumbai upto Raigarh, about 100 km from here.

MSC Chitra had collided with MV Khalijia-111, about 10
kms off the Mumbai coast.

Oil was leaking from two of the 12 tanks of MSC Chitra
which had got damaged due to the collision. The two tanks
could together hold 879 tonnes of oil, sources in the Coast
Guard said. The accident caused the vessel to run aground and
list heavily to one side.

The ship had 2,262 tonnes of oil and up to 400 tonnes
of it had leaked into the Arabian sea, threatening marine life
and ecology along the Mumbai coastline including in the
mangroves.

The Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) said feared
that toxic and corrosive materials in the vessel may have got
mixed up with fuel oil in the sea.

"The vessels had 31 containers on deck fully loaded
with toxic and flammable constituents. Among those containers,
six were loaded with pesticides. It would be fair to assume
that these containers would fall off, if not already in
water," Director General of Shipping S B Agnihotri told
reporters.

On the possible cause of the crash, he said as per a
preliminary enquiry, the accident may have happened due to a
fault in navigating the ships or failure in radio
communication.

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC) was also alerted
over use of sea water for its nuclear facilities.

The Navy and the Coast Guards carried out anti-pollution
operations for the third consecutive day spraying dispersants
to check and neutralise the oil spill.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said the ship contained
around 2,600 metric tonnes of oil. "It is believed that around
500 MT must have spilled over."

S S Dasila, Commandant (Maritime Rescue Coordination
Centre) of Coast Guard said the oil spill posed a serious
danger to maritime fauna and flora.

"MSC Chitra has tilted 80 degrees," Arun Singh,
Commandant (Operations), Coast Guard told PTI.

He said so far, 300 of the 1,219 containers on the
ship have tumbled into the water.

-PTI



First Published: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - 00:29

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