Oil leak from ship stops, environmental concerns remain

Oil leak from ship stops, environmental concerns remain 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.