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Oil leak stops as sinking ship stabilises off Mumbai

Rahi Gaikwad

Salvage operations on, Coast Guard monitors situation

— Photo: Paul Noronha

MSC Chitra, a cargo vessel carrying oil and involved in a collision off the Mumbai coast, is tilting precariously on Monday.

Mumbai: While the sea around Mumbai faces a potential environment disaster after an oil spill in the Arabian Sea, the three-day ordeal of containing it came to an end on Monday evening. While the Coast Guard continued chemical spraying to contain the oil slick, the tilting cargo ship MSC Chitra, involved in a collision with another vessel earlier, stabilised.

By evening, there was no further oil leak, the Coast Guard said.

“Operation Chitra is over. The ship has been stabilised although it remains tilted at 60° to 70°. Salvage operations are on now. The Coast Guard is monitoring the operations,” Commandant S.S. Dasila told The Hindu over telephone. No more containers are falling off the ship.

However, the Maharashtra government says it will take a month for cleanup operations. Over 350 tonnes of oil spilled into the sea. In the case of the BP oil spill, 0.7 to 1.1 million tonnes had poured into the Gulf of Mexico.

“The hazardous cargo on MSC Chitra, comprising 31 containers of chemicals and pesticide, is intact on board,” Commandant Dasila said.

Oil spilled from MSC Chitra after the merchant vessel collided with m.v. Khalijia-III off the Mumbai coast on Saturday morning. MSC Chitra had sailed up to four nautical miles into the sea and m.v. Khalijia-III was inbound.

Coast Guard ships and aircraft engaged in pollution response indicate almost nil oil spill from MSC Chitra as observed in the evening. Ships continued to monitor the situation. No oil has been spotted on the coastline in the districts of Thane, Navi Mumbai and Raigad. Nine containers which drifted off the Uran coast contain milk powder as reported, according to the Coast Guard.

Satish Agnihotri, Director-General of Shipping, told a press conference that floating containers were being retrieved on barge through floating cranes. Equipment from the company Smit Salvage Singapore was engaged in removing the containers. More equipment is expected to arrive in the next two days. “Effective salvage operations can begin only by the end of the month,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Environment Minister Suresh Shetty conducted an aerial survey.

Mr. Shetty told a press conference in the afternoon that there were 1,219 containers on board; 200 to 250 had fallen into the sea with about two tonnes of oil leaking into the water per hour.

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