'Spill caused by engine oil, not oil cargo'

'Spill caused by engine oil, not oil cargo'

What spilled into the sea off the Chennai coast was the engine oil from one of the ships that collided, and not the oil cargo carried by one of the ships as it is was first thought, said a report sent to the Prime Minister’s Office.

If the oil cargo of the ship had leaked, the disaster would have been of a bigger proportion, the report said. The oil tanker, MT Dawn Kanchipuram, which was carrying 32,813 tonnes of petroleum, oil and lubricants, suffered a rupture after it collided with MT BW Maple. The accident took place near the Kamarajar Port in the early hours of January 28.

Consequently, MT Dawn Kanchipuram, which was carrying a huge amount of oil cargo, was safely berthed and its cargo discharged first to obviate the possibility of any further catastrophic accident and a major oil spill. 

Kamarajar Port authorities deployed oil boom around the vessel before bringing it to a safe location within three hours of the accident to contain any suspected seepage.

A diving team also carried out underwater inspections of the ship, which was later brought to the port.

This  task of towing it to the harbour was a challenge as  the main engine of the vessel was not in operation.

Notwithstanding a massive clean-up operation launched off the coast — in Tiruvallur, Chennai and Kancheepuram districts — by engaging more than 2,000 persons, the report said “more than 90% of the work has been completed and most of the residual work is expected to be completed in a couple of days.”

The Coast Guard, which was informed within two hours of the incident by the Kamarajar Port authorities, deployed their ships and helicopters to survey and keep a watch on the oil spill. 

At Ernavur, which had the maximum drift of sludge, booms were deployed along the shore line to contain the oil spread.

Nearly 1,000 people equipped with portable pollution cleaning equipment are at work for shoreline cleaning. Up until February 2, they have removed sludge (mixture of oil, water, ocean material etc.) weighing 65 tonnes.

According to the report, there is a vast difference between quantity of oil spilled and sludge recovered due to the fact that the oil gets coagulated and becomes puffy when it is mixed with water and, sand.

As for the disposal of the collected sludge, a 2,000 square metre pit has been created for the purpose.

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