Oil tanker finally pulled out of Chennai beach

High tides helped to tug out ship after 12 days of struggle

‘Pratibha Cauvery (PC)’, the oil tanker that was grounded by cyclone  Nilam close to the Chennai coast on October 31, was successfully pulled towards the deep sea on Sunday evening after 12 days of herculean struggle to salvage the Mumbai-based Indian vessel, officials said.

Much to the relief of authorities and environmentalists, one of the emergency tug vessels, ‘Malaviya’ eventually pulled out the ship, which had got stuck in the sands close to the Marina beach here, and safely began towing her into the deeper waters during the seventh round of towing operations.

The ship has been removed and refloated around 6:20 pm and is now moving towards the Chennai Port area, sources in the Coast Guard said. Earlier in the day, the vessel had turned around an amazing 120 degrees, from a North-South direction (its position when it had run aground) to an East-West direction. It ended the fixity about the vessel and helped the tugs to pull her into the deep sea, they added.

The salvage operations led by a Singapore firm and coordinated by a team of the Indian Coast Guard, Navy, Chennai Port Trust and the Mercantile Marine Department, was overseen by Union Shipping Minister, G K Vasan, who first visited the oil tanker to inspect the salvage operations on Saturday.

The fairly high-tides on Sunday afternoon in the run-up to the new moon day falling on November 13, also helped the salvage operations in thrusting the trapped vessel upwards. Pumping out 9,000 tonnes of ballast water stored in the ship enabled the rescue efforts as it considerably lightened the vessel, sources said. The 30,000-tonne DWT capacity ship was carrying about 350 kilo litres of furnace oil when it ran aground, but there has been no spillage.

Even as Vasan was seated on the beach on Sunday behind the Santhome Basilica, eagerly waiting for the ship to be tugged out to safer waters, thousands of people who had thronged the beach gave “Pratibha Cauvery” a touching adieu.

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