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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Agrounding of MT Pavit – was it accidental or allowed to drift ?

It is a famous beach – Juhu is a suburb of Western Mumbai known for its sprawling beach on the Arabian sea front.  It is one of the affluent areas of Mumbai.  JRD Tata, the father of civil aviation in India, made his maiden voyage from Juhu Airport to Drigh road airstrip, Karachi on 15th October 1932.  

Now people are flogging the sands of the beach to see the new visitor.  Not long ago, a 145 M cargo vessel on its funeral voyage to Alang broke free from the tow and drifted towards Bandra-Worli Sea Link, finally rested aground near Juhu.  Following Wisdom, is the Panama-flagged MT Pavit, an oil tanker, which ran aground here around 11 am on 31st July 2011. Pavit is a much smaller vessel as it is of 77M in length.  
A vessel is meant to sail and when aground presents an ungainly sight and though it could attract curious onlookers, it is likely to create more problems.  Fortunately, there reportedly is no oil slick and is not on the sea front and may not present any impediment for the movement of other vessels.    But community of fisherman in Mora village are apprehending threat to the existence of their houses.  They fear that if the grounded ship were to tilt more to its right, it might fall on their houses and rob their living place. 
The tanker vessel grinded to a halt following engine failure and flooding inside – it was laden with around 10 metric tonnes of fuel and gas oil.  The Police reportedly is taking pre-emptive measures to avoid any mishaps or instances of drowning. All access points are being manned by guards so no one sneaks up to the tanker.  There are reports that rescue operations had already been taken by Coast Guard and Indian ship, MT Jag Pushpa, rescued the 13 crew members aboard the Pavit.  Its owners - a Dubai-based company, were under the impression that the ship had sunk.

In yet another angle, there are concerned reports that MV Pavit drifted undetected for over 100 hours to Mumbai's shores.  If the news reports are to be belived, the claims of coastal defences have brutally been exposed.  There are news that the ship had been  abandoned by its crew last month and reported sunk, drifted for more than a hundred hours through India's maritime territory before being detected late on Sunday afternoon.  The Navy,  the Coast Guard and the newly created maritime police, all failed to detect it.  In October 2010, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had made tall claims of  “significant progress” in improving its coastal defences since 26/11.
Whether a vessel can drift so long and so many days and whether it could do so remaining undetected are all mysterious questions !!
The terrorists have exploited the gaps in coastal defence with impunity on that ill-fated day when they sneaked into Mumbai and killed innocents in  Nov  2008.  The  10-man Lashkar-e-Taiba assault team sailed undetected into the city on a hijacked fishing  boat.  
Terrorism is global issue and after 11th Sept, Governments across the World have invested billions in Port Security fearing that hijacked or unmanned ships could be used to transport weapons of mass destruction.  A fully loaded tanker exploding in harbour can be a calamity of a high devastation.
The Maharashtra legislature reportedly witnessed uproarious scenes on the loopholes in coastal security with Opposition members taking the Govt. to task.   The Minister of State for Home reported that the Govt was probing the MT Pavit case.  But what will happen if terrorist come in such vessels and carry out blasts and what if the ship was carrying RDS - was the Q that remains unanswered.  
Perhaps there remains larger issues  beyond the simpler looking drifting and running aground of a vessel alongside the beach
Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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