Mumbai port to reopen by Aug 15

Mrashtra govt has set a 10-day deadline for resuming operations

Mumbai port to reopen by Aug 15

However, the Maharashtra government and the Central authorities are looking at a 10-day deadline with a promise to open the port by August 15.

Both the Mumbai Port and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) across the Mumbai harbour, which is the main container hub, have remained shut since the collision and port sources said the shipping activity might not commence till Friday.

There are 32 ships which are stranded at Mumbai and JNPT ports due to the collision, which will start moving by that date, Coast Guard sources said.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Tuesday visited the Coast Guard office to discuss the clean-up operations of the oil spill from the stricken ship “MSC Chitra”, which is precariously floating after colliding with MV Khalijia III.

Oil was leaking from two of the 12 tanks of “Chitra”, which together could hold 879 tonnes of oil.

There are fears that “Chitra” could get stuck indefinitely mid-sea much like the “River Princess” which ran aground off the Goa coast in 2000, creating a bigger environmental nightmare.

Chavan was briefed by the Coast Guard about the situation. “The situation is under control now as the leakage of oil from “MSC Chitra” has been plugged yesterday (Monday) and no further oil spill from the ship has been reported,” he told mediapersons later.

Coast Guard authorities estimate that between 400-500 MT of oil might have spilled from “Chitra”. However, the chemical dispersion exercise is underway, Chavan said, adding, the experts from a Singapore firm, who arrived in Mumbai, have started their operations related to oil spill.

“The exercise to remove remaining oil from Chitra will be initiated by respective agencies from August 13,” Chavan said. A decision regarding the restoration of traffic at Mumbai harbour would be taken after a review meeting with respective agencies soon, he added.

Marine life hit

Although the oil leakage has been plugged, the oil slick formed by the spillage has moved towards Raigad coast, south of Mumbai and is certainly affecting marine life and environment on the coast. Several fish and even a snake that came in from the sea near Uran across the Mumbai harbour on Monday were covered in oil, and the mangroves there are bearing the brunt of the mishap.

It is estimated that about 800 tonnes of oil has already been spilt, which is almost double than what was claimed by Chavan. The 31 hazardous containers still in the ship’s hold are however secure.

Meanwhile, the fishermen have already been issued advisory to avoid fishing activity till August 15 as there are still 200 containers floating on the sea water. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board has collected water samples for testing and already lodged a case under the Environment Protection Act 1986.

The statements of the captains of the two ships was recorded by the police on Tuesday. The police also questioned officials from the VTMS (Vessel Traffic Management System) which is the nodal body for ship movement in the port area. The police have also asked for the logs of both the ships.

Preliminary investigations indicate that the two ships were communicating on different radio frequencies, and neither of the ships had a pilot to guide them during crossings, which is a routine practice.

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