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Monday, August 9, 2010

Collision near Mumbai Coast - MSC Chitra collides with MV Khalijia-III

Collision is an accident at sea – ship having a structural impact with another ship or floating or still object. I had earlier posted something about road accidents as also sea accidents. The collision at sea can cause – loss of human life, environment impact like oil spills (when tankers are involved), loss of property (of hull as also the cargo more particularly containers carried), loss of revenue to parties concerned, damage to infrastructure and financial consequences to those living nearby.

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. Improper maneuvering by Master, Pilot or navigational officer, faulty propulsion, rudder or any other machinery, error by shore personnel giving directions all can cause mishaps. Many a times, ships are not pilotted and different vessels operating on different radio frequencies also add to the trouble.

At a time when the major oil spill of BP at US and another at China are capturing media headlines, the Indian coast is feeling the impact of collision and oil spill. On 7th Aug 10, the container carrier MSC Chitra collided with MV Khalijia-III – 8 kms closer to Mumbai shore.

The Coast Guard sounded an alert over the oil spill off the coast as slick covered a large area, aggravating the situation was the falling of containers from Chitra, which is tilting precariously. MSC Chitra had on board around 1200 containers – 200 apprehended fallen into the sea – 32 of the containers had dangerous cargo, going by the manifests. MV Khalijia III was carrying about 26000 tonnes of oil which included diesel and lube oil to a small extent. The collision is reported to be due to technical and navigational error in MSC Chitra which is listing near the JNPT. Going by the reports, this vessel was attempting to berth when it struck the other vessel. Upon receipt of SOS, all crew members were saved.

Indian Coast guard started spraying operations. Five ships have been deployed in the region. Following a complaint by the Coast Guard, a FIR stands registered against the Captains and crew members of the ships. The charges include rash navigation, endangering life and causing damage to property. Besides a case has been registered under the Environmental Protection Act also as the vessel’s containers, which contain hazardous chemicals, are currently floating off the Mumbai coast. A meeting of State Govt. disaster management committee is to ensue shortly.

Though anti pollution operations were immediate, containment and recovery of oil spill is impeded by rocky surface, tidal and weather conditions. Fishing boats have been instructed not to venture into that area.

Criminal investigations have begun but the news causing concern is that the country’s biggest container port has been closed for operations after the collision. Unconfirmed reports say that the Port has been experiencing congestion problems stands closed with no concrete news on when it would reopen. Nhava Sheva is the largest Port in India handling a high share of container traffic. It has access to hinterland of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and most of North India. This Port located across the Thane creek, had been commissioned in 1989 and has 3 terminals.
Both the vessels were reportedly Panamian flagged. MSC Chitra was 1980 build with call sign Call Sign: H9VU IMO: 7814838, MMSI: 357649000, capable of cruising at more than 16 knots.

In an indirect consequence, a constable attached with the marine unit of the city police died after he fell off a speed boat during patrolling near the cargo vessel MSC Chitra. The victim was identified as Ramesh Tukaram More (45). He alongwith three other constables were patrolling in a speed boat in the wee hours around 1.5 nautical miles from the Chitra.  The victim unfortunately fell off the boat losing control and other could not rescue as none of them knew swimming which is very pathetic.

Regards – Sampathkumar S


  1. Very descriptive. How will the goods or the containers be transported back, especially when this occurred closer to sea ? Can they be saved, if not the ship itself. - Sekhar

  2. Can the containers be tracked with their code and whether the interested parties be able to check the fate of their cargo without assistance of any agency - Guru