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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Towing MT Pratibha Cauvery back to sea commences !

No prize for guessing the place of this crowd at mid noon......

8 days after the running aground of vessel MT Pratibha Cauvery, nothing much has happened. The sands of Patinapakkam near Nochikuppam which has tiny fishing hamlets and selling fresh fish as common activity has been bustling with visitors.  Crowds throng the place to have a glimpse of the gigantic structure suddenly visible all across.  The place now dots make-shift stalls selling – sundal, panipuri, water packets, cool drinks, samosa, sugarcane juice et.alo.,  – and group of photographers making some money with instant photos of people with Pratibha Cauvery in the background.

With the salvage of vessel expected to take place today, there were hosts of Press cameramen and TV cameras with anchors standing before the ship, speaking something about the ship and more about the visitors that the ship has attracted.  One of them urged his cameraman to place his tripod quickly and start shooting stating ‘make it fast, before the vessel moves’

For people, it is extravaganza – not realizing the agony of those involved – it can never be a few hours drama nor a day’s affair – salvaging and refloating a vessel, may never be so easy, though one wishes that vessel does regains its floatation and is back on the high sea.  Lot would remain to be seen on how much of its bottom has taken the hit, whether there are ruptures on the hull and whether the old vessel could withstand the pull and not give way during the tow.

The operations to float back the vessel appear to be simple – of course there would always be various complex issues analysed and taken care of, before this is ventured out.  But for a curious onlooker, it involves a Tug boat – Malviya 21, here – trying to pull the ship back in to the waters through sling passing from the Tug to the ship.  Sounds, elementary…………..  here is something which I understood to be, from the operation. 

The dictionary meaning of verb ‘pull’ is to - apply force to so as to cause or tend to cause motion toward the source of the force.  A pull is a force that acts in the direction of the origin of the force.  In physics, a force is any influence that causes an object to undergo a certain change, either concerning its movement, direction, or geometrical construction.  Force can also be described by intuitive concepts such as a push or pull. A force has both magnitude and direction, making it a vector quantity.

We have seen disabled vehicles being pulled or rather towed from its static position and taken to a place of repairs.  Towing is the process of pulling or drawing behind a chain, line, bar or some other form of couplings.  The act of towing  most visibly performed by road vehicles are done for waterborne vessels too.   The one used for towing is a tug boat.  A tugboat (tug) is a boat that manouvers  vessels by pushing or towing them. Tugs are commonly used in Ports where they guide and pull the ships to their designated place.   move vessels that either should not move themselves, such as ships Tugboats are powerful for their size and strongly built.

The act of recovering the stranded ship is known in Marine parlance as ‘salvage’ – the process of recovering which would include towing, refloating a sunken or grounded vessel, or patching or repairing a ship.  In a vessel that is struck, there could be valuable and heavily weighing cargo as well and when the cargo is oil, more is the concern of protecting the environment from pollution.  "Salvors" are seamen and engineers who carry out salvage to vessels that are not owned by themselves, and who are not members of the vessel's original crew.

When a vessel is intentionally run aground it is called ‘beaching’.  Despite all improvements and electronic developments relating to the safety of navigation and associated with crew training,  accidents occur and will always occur for a variety of  reasons. Groundings happen for different reasons, ranging from a main engine breakdown to many more and this vessel Pratibha Vessel ran aground as tossed by cyclonic storm ‘Nilam’. 

The refloating using the tug is expected to be smooth, as the area is accessible and strategically easy to analyse and locate.  Still it could a long complicated work. 

There could never be comparisons – in the case of MV New Carissa which ran aground on a  beach near Coos Bay, Oregon, United States, during a storm in February 1999 – there were complications.  When it was attempted to tow the bow section, the tow line broke; there was significant amount of spillage of oil too.  MT Pratibha Cauvery reported is not laden with any cargo; the ballast water would perhaps be emptied – still there is diesel and furnace oil of considerable magnitude.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
8th Nov. 12.

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