Bulk carrier stuck on Goa's shore for 10 yrs

Two contracts were terminated and eight tenders cancelled in the last nine years highlighting the extent of deliberate bungling within political circles here over the bid to remove the rusting ship.

Salvage experts said it would take at least three years to cut up and clear the remnants of the highly corroded 20,000 tonne vessel from the shore. The government is expected to insist that the job be done from the seaward side to avoid pollution and more damage to the beach. The project will cost the state exchequer over Rs 100 crore.

Through the decade-long saga, no one has talked of imposing costs on the owners of the vessel, the Anil Salgaocar-run Salgaocar Mining Industries Ltd. The vessel was anchored at Panjim outer harbour without insurance and drifted ashore in the June 2000 storm. The company also ignored a government order to refloat the stranded ship within 90 days.

SMIL director Sameer Salgaocar says his firm has “never shirked responsibility over the vessel.” But even after the state government took possession of the River Princess in 2003, the ship’s insides were stripped of all saleable material and massive holes appeared practically overnight in its hull to make refloating impossible. The ship is now seven metres deep in sand.

“The idea was to make sure the vessel would never be refloated, so the government would have little choice but to ask that it be broken down and taken away for scrap,” a salvage expert said. Anil Salgaocar, who is also an independent MLA, has run huge advertisements here in the past few days alleging a scam in the recent tender. He said he is prepared to remove the River Princess for free.

“The catch is, he wants to cut it up on shore and keep the scrap,” a government official said. The scrap, say experts, would fetch over Rs 30 crore. The government has so far ruled out the option of breaking the ship on shore.

A 2008 report by the National Institute of Oceanography said over 1.1 km of the Dando-Sinquerim coast had eroded because the River Princess is blocking the natural sedimentation. The beach had reduced by 14 metres between 2005 and 2006.

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