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Oil spill: Port trusts, coast guard, foreign experts called in

Last updated on: August 11, 2010 19:16 IST

Mobilisation of resources close to the ill-fated cargo vessel MSC Chitra, which collided with another cargo ship off the city coast, is underway to carry out salvage operation even as some more containers fell into the sea.

City's port trusts, coast guard officials and foreign experts from Netherlands-based company SMIT are leading the operation.

"The process of mobilising resources by us and other agencies concerned to carry out salvage operation is underway. Floating cranes and tug boats were moved close to the MSC Chitra, while setting up of an accommodation barge is going on," Rahul Astana, chairman of Mumbai Port Trust, said.

On Tuesday, the agencies tried to set up the barge, which will suck out the remaining oil in the ship and prevent more containers from falling into the sea, but due to choppy waters they could not manage to do this, Astana added.

"Though towing away of floating and sunk containers in the navigational channel has already been started, the continuous pumping of oil is a crucial thing which we may start from tomorrow or day after tomorrow," he said.

Once the oil is pumped out of the ship, then it would be easier to retrieve the containers on the deck.

Two merchant vessels MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia III had collided off the Mumbai coast on Saturday resulting in severe damage to the bows of the latter. The hull of MSC Chitra was breached leading to oil slick.

Nearly 25 containers that tumbled from the ship into the sea, were collected yesterday. Some more were picked up on Wednesday, Astana said.

Of the 1,219 containers on the ship, over 250 believed to have slipped into the sea due to the tilt till yesterday, he said.

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

"Though the ship did not tilt further and steadied at 80 degrees, some more fell in the water after mid-night," he said.

It was estimated that 400-500 metric tonnes of oil may have spilled from the vessel which was carrying 2,662 metric tonnes of oil, officials said.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, the Mumbai Port Trust, the coast guard and foreign experts from SMIT, a Netherlands-based company hired to carry out salvage efforts, are working together to complete the operation, they added.

Meanwhile, Coast Guard Inspector General (West Region) S P S Basra said no oil spill dispersants were sprayed in the sea today as no 'major' oil patches were found.

The traffic at Mumbai harbour is likely to be restored by Sunday but it will take at least 45 days to complete the salvage operations.

The collision appeared to have been due to the two vessels communicating on different radio frequencies.
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