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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

MT Pratibha Cauvery sold for Rs.16 crores; set to sail out of Chennai

Cyclonic Storm Nilam, originated from an area of low pressure over the Bay of Bengal on October 28, the system began as a weak depression 550 km (340 mi) northeast of Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Over the following few days, the depression gradually intensified into a deep depression, and subsequently a Cyclonic Storm by October 30. It  threatened Chennai but made landfall near Mahabalipuram on October 31, 2012  as a strong Cyclonic Storm with peak winds of 85 kmph (50 mph) 


Though it did not devastate the city of Chennai, it brought to shore a tanker vessel - MT Pratibha Cauvery that ran aground first in Besant Nagar and then shifted closer to shores at Pattinapakkam.  In the ghastly incident at least one sailor drowned and five reported missing as those on board risked their lives to reach the shore in life boats. It was MT Pratibha Cauvery, a  Tanker vessel of 1981 built with 16949 GRT ; Length overall (LOA)174.05 (MTR);  Indian flagged with call sign: VWQU and IMO: 7920754.

Vadivelu , a 28-year-old fisherman from Oorur Kuppam  with his friends  rescued six crew members of Pratibha Cauvery. TOI reported that when hundreds of people watched in despair as the lifeboat of oil tanker Pratibha Cauvery capsized, the fishermen decided to launch their own rescue mission. Catamarans fitted with motors sputtered to life and fishermen were competing with each other to go on the mission. Vadivelu and four others, who the community agreed were the best swimmers risked their lives and saved some of the crew.   From Besant Nagar, due to the action of winds, the ship was moved from that position and moved in a northerly direction, running aground this time closer to the sands near Pattinapakkam [Foreshore Estate] almost 500 meters from the shore and less than a kilo metre from the new lighthouse at Marina beach.


From its beached position where thousands gathered everyday to view, salvage efforts to float the vessel began. Marine salvage is the process of rescuing a ship, its cargo, or other property from peril. Salvage Experts, an International firm SMIT was engaged and a powerful Tug Malviya 21 was summoned from Kakinada.  It was another good news that there was no oil spill from the ship.  Initially, the efforts failed as rope connecting the ship snapped.  Two days later, the vessel moved a few degrees towards the sea. Though another emergency tow vessel was available the team decided to have it only as a stand by. On Nov. 11th after several attempts, the vessel could be salvaged and pulled into the sea around 6.25 pm. 

That was not to be ending as the vessel got mired into litigation. The Madras High Court directed authorities not to let the ship move out of Chennai waters following a petition by a family of a deceased sailor. The petition sought an interim compensation of Rs.25 lakh to the family of each sailor who was killed in the tragedy and an eventual settlement of Rs. one crore each. The petitioner claimed that the ship was not sea worthy, it was low on fuel, it had no power and the crew members were without food and water on board.  There was to be more sadness ….. as depressed parents of a sailor who lost his life in that incident committed suicide. 

The ship had to remain in Chennai … recently newspaper reports suggest that the ill-fated oil tanker has been sold for Rs.16 crore and would sail out sooner.  It was stated that permission to this effect was given by the Madras high court, after its auction-sale was confirmed.  At Madras High Court, Justice Sudhakar had a special sitting and confirmed the auction sale of the 30,000-tonne vessel. He also noted that the total consideration for the ship was 16 crore and the amount had been deposited with the office of the registrar general of the high court by the successful bidder, Baltanas Shipping Limited in Charlestown, Nevis.

In an identical development, Justice A Arumughaswamy of the Madras high court appointed advocate Bhuvaneswari as advocate-commissioner to sell another ship now anchored at Kakinada port, M V Chemical Arrow, by public auction. Passing orders on a civil suit filed by the city-based Sabah Ship Suppliers. In his order, the judge said the advocate-commissioner should advertise the auction-sale and then file a report in court on June 10 with details of the sealed tender

The new owners might tow it out or power it to make it seaworthy once again, or send it to a scrap yard. For sailing out of the ChPT, the owner has to get all the certificates revalidated and receive clearance from the mercantile marine department too,  some officials are quoted as saying. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

19th May 2013.

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