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Monday, August 8, 2011

MV Rak Carrier sinks off Mumbai coast - is Oil slick imminent

MSC Chitra, MV Wisdom, MV Pavit and the list is growing – Mumbai and vessels are not complementing well.  In yet another reported mishap off Mumbai coast, a huge cargo vessel - MV Rak Carrier sank 20 nautical miles off the Prongs Reef light house, located at the mouth of the city harbour, on  4th Aug 2011. The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Navy personnel swiftly rescued 30 crew members from the vessel before it met a watery grave.  Recently on 31st July 11 – MT Pavit ran aground off the Juhu-Versova beach in north-west Mumbai,   within days, a Panama flagged vessel drifted near the light house and sank

This is a big Cargo vessel  -  Bulk Carrier, Flag Panama, GRT 36196, DWT 63695, built in 1984, owned and managed by Delta Shipping Marine Services, Qatar and classed with Lloyds Register of  Shipping.  MV Rak Carrier  was laden with 60,054 tonnes of coal and  was on her voyage from Lubuk Tutung (Indonesia) to Dahej (Gujarat) when the mishap took place. Apart from coal, the ship - having a gross weight of 36,196 tonnes - also had on its board 290 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel oil.  Fearing the sinking threat, 15 of the total 30 crews members jumped overboard. In a coordinated effort, the Navy and the Coast Guard rescued these 15 crew members from the sea - as also equal number of others from aboard the sinking ship, using two helicopters. Subsequently, all the 30 rescued crew members -comprising Indonesians, Jordanians and Romanians - were taken to the Navy helicopter base INS Shikra.
This incident has posed a  severe navigational, ecological and environmental threat, promoting the authorities to mark the location to ensure against impediments to ship traffic and to rush its oil pollution response vessel Samudra Prahari near the mishap site.  Navigational warnings to the mariners about the mishap-sparked dangers.
the rescue underway and
the rescued crew on board another vessel

Upon receipt of alert,  Directorate General of Shipping requested Indian Coast Guard for assistance to the distressed ship.  It also simultaneously directed the Shipping Corporation of India, to send the charterer of Smit Lumba, an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV), to the mishap site.  Other authorities like Mumbai city-district collector, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Director General of Lighthouse and Lightships (DGLL) and Port authorities have also  been asked to initiate appropriate action against the polluter.
There were reports that  three fourth length of the vessel (overall length about 225 meters) has already been submerged and efforts to salvage the vessel were made.  The communication of DG Shipping (ID relese 73921)  read :
The Directorate General of Shipping under the Ministry of Shipping today received information from Mumbai Port that MV Rak Carrier type Bulk Carrier, Flag Panama, GRT 36196, DWT 63695, built in 1984, manned with 30 crew (Indonesian, Jordanian, Romanian) on board was observed to be adrift in a position approximately 20 miles off from Prongs Reef Light House located at the entrance of Mumbai Harbour since early hours of morning. This vessel was on her voyage from Lubuk Tutung (Indonesia) to Dahej (Gujarat) having cargo of 60054 MT cargo of Coal on board reported ingress of water. This vessel is owned and managed by a Qatar based company and classed with Lloyds Register of Shipping. The vessel was reported to be having about 290 tons of fuel oil and 50 tons of diesel oil; the exact quantity is being confirmed from the rescued crew of the ship.  The Directorate in the capacity of Maritime Assistance Service (MAS) requested the Indian Coast Guard to render immediate assistance to this vessel in distress. In addition it also directed the Shipping Corporation of India, the charterer of Smit Lumba, Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV), to send this unit to the casualty site for rendering assistance.   The last report received from the Coast Guard and ETV today indicated that ¾ length of the vessel (Overall length about 225 meters) has already been submerged. Efforts are still being made to salvage the ship.  The Indian Coast Guard immediately swung into action and dispatched their vessels to the site and also conducted aerial sorties to assess the situation. The Coast Guard also directed a couple of merchant ships and naval ships to proceed to the site to provide support services to the ETV and the Coast Guard crafts. The entire crew of the vessel was safely rescued by the Coast Guard and the Naval Ship. 18 Nos. crew have been shifted to shore by Navy Chopper and 12 Nos. Crew shifted to a merchant Ship which is now anchored off Mumbai harbor.   (report partially reproduced – not in its entirety)
The Indian Coast Guard has already dispatched their oil pollution response vessel Samudra Prahari, which is standing by to deal with any pollution if it all takes place from the ship. So far, no pollution has been reported. ””
Now few days after the sinking (4th Aug 11) there are conflicting reports of the worst fears of oil leak coming true.  There are reports that there has been leakage due to ingress of water in the cargo hull.  Some Press reports that oil has been observed leaking from the sunken vessel Rak Carrier at an approximate rate of 1.5 to 2 tonnes per hour. The oil has spread about seven nautical miles around the vessel’.  The coastguard reportedly has deployed two ships, including its anti-pollution vessel INS Samudra Prahari, which are neutralizing the oil spill by spraying chemicals that binds the oil and prevents it from spreading. However, with 1.5-2 tons of oil leaking every hour, environmentalists are worried.
Oil patches have also been seen on Juhu beach - sparking fears about whether the grounded ship MT Pavit was leaking oil.  Though a drum of oil had fallen off Pavit, authorities say, these patches are likely to have been caused by the Rak carrier spill, carried ashore.  Environmentalists fear that when the oil slick occurs, it enters the food chain, the algae imbibe the oil and that may affect the entire marine ecology.  Again, fishermen have been advised to stay away from the area where the ship has sunk. The vessel Rak Carrier had 60,000 metric tonnes of coal, 290 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel on board.
Salvage operations are hampered by the rough weather and tidal conditions because of the monsoons. Besides Samudra Prahari, another Coast guard vessel Sankalp and a Chetak helicopter, are  used for spreading oil dispersants.  There are reports citing Coast Guard officials that the spill was a minor one.   The spill is reported to be around 350 tonnes which would be classified as tier 1 (less than 700 tonnes and tier 2 when between 700 >< 2000 tonnes and tier 3 over that).   Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB)  were to  collect water samples to assess the situation and decide if this will be hazardous for fishing and other coastal activities.
Presumably there is threat arising out of the cargo i.e., coal on board the sunken vessel.  Again there are reports that coal is not hazardous and not directly harmful though its impurities may dissolve in water and get suspended on the surface, which may have some localised impact.   Another section of the Press reports that there are attempts to ward off panic and CSG has been neutralising oil from the sunken vessel.  Quoting Govt. reports it is reported that  despite the leaking oil, there was no imminent threat to the city's coast. Physical inspection revealed that there was furnace oil at specific locations off the Juhu coast. As of now, the oil content is about 1 to 2 mgs per litre, which is negligible. Any loss to marine life would be ascertained by the National Institute of Oceanography, as requested by the MPCB.  The cleansing operation is known as Paryavaran Suraksha- 2/2011.
As it occurs when conflicting reports keep coming in, the truth often is the biggest casualty

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

1 comment:

  1. the details of cargo, vessel and other info is really interesting. nobody has given such a vivid account.appreciate this.