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Thursday, February 2, 2017

collision near Kamarajar Port, Chennai - varied reports of oil slick / pollution

Marina beach is different ! ~ nothing connected to Jallikattu, but oil spill.

On 28th Jan 2017, a tanker vessel MT Dawn Kancheepuram an inward bound ship collided with MT BW Maple a Liquified Pertroleum Gas Carrier about 12 fathom into the sea. The incident occurred at 4 a.m when the vessel, MT Maple, was leaving the port after offloading an LPG consignment. It collided with MT Dawn Kanchipuram, which was entering with a full load of petrol and lubricants, and damaged the ship.  Port authorities were quoted as saying that collision happened about two nautical miles from the shore owing to “miscommunication” or “misjudgment.”

Collision is the act of colliding; a coming violently into contact; crash. A collision is an isolated event in which two or more bodies (colliding bodies) exert relatively strong forces on each other for a relatively short time. Collisions involve forces and there is a change in velocity. In traffic such a collision can be between two vehicles, a vehicle and a person, a vehicle and an object, two persons or a person and an object (and more if an animal is involved). It is an accident or even a disaster.

As we travel on any highway, quite often we see ghastly signs of trucks colliding with one another causing damages and injuries. These are attributed to :- uncontrolled heavy traffic, mechanical failures especially of the breaking system, driver fatigue, poor visibility, judgmental errors, supremacy attitude of the driver, lack of patience, driving by persons not authorised and a host of other reasons. For an Insurer, the collision hurts – the injuries / fatality would result in a claim (PA / MACT).   The sea lanes are not as congested as roadways and ships do not speed mad like buses and lorries – there are no space jammers like auto rickshaws and law breaking 2 wheeler drivers. Still there are operational loads, denser sea routes, poor visibility though guided by radar and more importantly human error – all contributing to collision. At sea it is much more serious – primarily due to the accumulated values of Hull, thousands of cargo and freight not to speak of marine pollution, oil slicks…….  

In Oct 2011, New Zealand woke up rudely to the Liberian vessel MV Rena running aground off Tauranga  at Bay of Plenty.   It was a container vessel laden with 1386 containers – some  88 containers fell into the sea.  The ship listed and subsequently broke into two – there was much on oil slick and pollution  - and anything on Oil slick would naturally take to tanker Exxon Valdez. 

On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez had just entered Alaska's Prince William Sound, after departing the Valdez Marine Terminal full of crude oil. At 12:04 am, the ship struck a reef, tearing open the hull and releasing 11 million gallons of oil into the environment. Initial responses by Exxon and the Alyeska Pipeline Company were insufficient to contain much of the spill, and a storm blew in soon after, spreading the oil widely. Eventually, more than 1,000 miles of coastline were fouled, and hundreds of thousands of animals perished. Exxon ended up paying billions in cleanup costs and fines, and remains tied up in court cases to this day. The captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was acquitted of being intoxicated while at the helm, but convicted on a misdemeanor charge of negligent discharge of oil, fined $50,000, and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service. Though the oil has mostly disappeared from view, many Alaskan beaches remain polluted to this day, crude oil buried just inches below the surface.

The Exxon Baton Rouge (smaller ship on left) attempts to offload crude oil from the Exxon Valdez after the Valdez ran aground in Prince William sound near Valdez, (photo credit : theatlantic.com). According to official reports, the ship was carrying approximately 54 million US gallons (200,000 m3) of oil, of which about 10.8 million US gallons (260,000 bbl; 41,000 m3) were spilled into the Prince William Sound.

Now getting back to Chennai, the collision at Kamarajar port, Ennore was reportedly a minor – no casualty or damage to ships were reported.  But 4 days later,  more worrying reports are emerging.  Some media reports suggest that failure of Kamarajar Port (Ennore) to raise an alarm over the enormity of the oil spill on Saturday may have contributed to the sluggish start in clean-up operations.  Days since the collision, it is stated in some quarters that  about 40 tonnes of oil may have leaked from Dawn Kanchipuram after the accident.

A report in today’s Indian Express estimates that more than 20 tonnes of oil spilled from MT Dawn Kanchipuram, which is owned by Mumbai-based Arya Voyagers as against the initial report of two-three tonnes by the ship,” citing a spokesperson of the Coast Guard. During the impact of the collision, the cofferdam tank in the ship which was carrying the bunker oil was ruptured. The Coast Guard were led to believe, on the basis of information provided, that they were battling a minor spill, which could be contained within 24 hours. Marine Mercantile Department clarified that a cheap-grade oil was purchased by the vessel to cut costs. Sources said the thickness of the cheap grade oil has made it difficult to contain the spill by the containment boom resulting in the oil spreading over 31 km from Kamarajar Port in Ennore to Adyar Creek.

Currently, the Coast Guard along with State government officials are mopping up the coast. Till now, approximately 15 tonnes of oil and sludge have been collected. Various resource agencies from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, State Fire Service, Kamrajar and Chennai Port, Coastal Security group,  Tree Foundation with more than 200 volunteers from several NGOs are participating in the clean-up.  It is stated that major per cent of the oil slick is towards the northern side of Chennai Harbour near RK Kuppam Beach. North of Chennai Harbour, 800 metres of shoreline in approximately 11 locations have been affected with thick oil sludge washing ashore.  Some cleaning is happening at Marina beach as well.   The Coast Guard ship ICGS Varad sprayed two tonnes of OSD on Tuesday mid-sea after carrying out an aerial survey. Kamarajar Port continues to maintain that there has been no oil spill since Saturday morning after it had laid oil booms to contain the spread of spilled oil.

With regards – S.Sampathkumar

1st Feb 2017

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