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Monday, June 6, 2011

Diesel smuggled and stored in Sagar Sevak

The vessel Sagar Sevak was in news for wrong reasons.  This is a supply ship flying Indian flag was built in 1972 has DWT  826  and is identified by  :  IMO: 7229681; Call Sign: VTQN.

The police have arrested two diesel smugglers and seized 55,000 litres of diesel and a ship, collectively valued at Rs 12 crore. The vessel Sagar Sevak with storage capacity of 150 tones, was used to store the smuggled diesel.  Something ingenuous !

For those not familiar with marine terms and happening – sure you know the storage tanks – those structures where liquid cargo including petroleum products are stored.  These are big units which can store liquids in huge quantities and then oil can be moved in truck and other conveyances in retail to user points.  There are vessels – barges and tank vessels used to store liquids / oils at sea – these are known as floating storage vessels.

In the larger context, there are factory vessels and vessels used for storage alone.  A floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) unit is a floating vessel used by the offshore industry for the processing of hydrocarbons and for storage of oil. A FPSO vessel is designed to receive hydrocarbons produced from nearby platforms or subsea template, process them, and store oil until it can be offloaded onto a tanker or transported through a pipeline. FPSOs are preferred in frontier offshore regions as they are easy to install, and do not require a local pipeline infrastructure to export oil. FPSOs can be a conversion of an oil tanker or can be a vessel built specially for the application. A vessel used only to store oil (without processing it) is referred to as a floating storage and offloading vessel (FSO).  FSOs are used worldwide by offshore oil industry to receive oil from nearby platforms and store it for offloading into oil tankers. 

There exists wide range of tank barges with varying capacities which are used as additional on-site storage for various applications.  Barges are flat bottomed boats built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods.  Some are propelled, many are not – known as dumb barges.  No. of these dumb barges could be towed by a single tug or other powerful vessel.  These generally carry bulk cargo.  Those adopted to carry liquid cargo are tank barges. 

Many a times these are created out of old, stripped down vessels but made anew as double bottomed hulls also.  A classic example of vessel turned FSO is Seawise Giant aka Knock Nevis.

Newspaper reports cited  Rakesh Sharma, crime branch unit in-charge, stating that they had arrested  two persons, both related,  who were involved in diesel smuggling for over six months. In what portrays the authorities in poor light, this appears to have been going for a long time.  The associates had been purchasing diesel from Indian and foreign ships and store it in Sagar Sevak, after making a payment for storage. Perhaps the officials of Sagar Sevak had some role too. 

Just like land rationing specified quantity of diesel is provided to foreign ships when call at the Indian ports – Mumbai. The vessels would have storage capacity of around 1 lakh litre diesel.   Those vessels at high seas resort to saving by switching off one of the engines and sell the saved fuel to the smugglers.  Though this would strain the engine more, a considerable quantity could still be saved and converted into unaccounted money.   The paper reports also suggests that  Sagar Sevak had been stationed at the harbour for over eight months since it had not got permission to work for ONGC.  Trying to obtain permission, the owners had  stationed their ship with the Mumbai Port Trust's permission.   It is really callous vigilance of the various agencies that has allowed smuggling of oil under their very nose.  It does not augur well in security angle as well, as it had gone unnoticed for too long. 

Citing Police, it is stated that the arrested  Qadar's aides would unload the diesel from the ships and save it in Sagar Sevak. Qadar would buy diesel for Rs 8 per litre from the foreign ships and sell it to wholesale black-marketing agents for Rs 18. Later, it would be sold by retailers for Rs 28. "The current market price for diesel is Rs 42 per  litre.  Six persons had earlier been arrested for buying diesel from the Al-Wasila ship in the high seas.

In a comparable tale of tinseldom, Qadar reportedly began working on a small vessel which used to deliver fruits and vegetables to foreign ships at sea. The acquaintance so developed was translated into buying diesel and smuggling it.   Till his arrest, his men would pretend to be fishermen or vegetable couriers," police sources said.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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