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Mumbai oil spill threatens marine life
Published on 10 Aug. 2010 9:30 PM IST
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The oil leak from the sinking cargo vessel MSC Chitra has been plugged with the Indian Coast Guard saying Operation Chitra has been successful and the ship has been stabilised. But nearly 800 tonnes of oil is already believed to have leaked out into the Arabian Sea and has been seen floating close to the coastline threatening marine life.
There are eight main fuel tanks on board the ship and two of these tanks leaked tonnes of oil into the sea. Coast Guard helicopters have been spraying anti-dispersants to prevent the oil spill from spreading. A team from Holland has also been called in to help in containing the spill.
MSC Chitra was also carrying 1219 containers out of which 31 had hazardous chemicals like pesticides. In the last three days approximately 400 containers have slipped into the sea.
The oil spill has already spread over an area of 25 square kilometers and the hazardous chemicals and pesticides may affect about 200 species of marine life. Mangroves off Navi Mumbai are in danger of being destroyed and the debris caused by the collision of ships may pose navigational problems.
Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board is looking into the possible oil poisoning and pollution along the coastline and the Directorate General of Shipping will conduct an enquiry into the causes of the accident and the Mumbai Port Trust will collate information on claims settlement.
The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has been advised not to use sea water to cool its reactors as it might contain oil and toxic substances. The BMC has advised people against eating sea fish as a precaution.
Environment disaster loomed large over coastal Mumbai, Raigad and surrounding areas Tuesday, the day after oil stopped leaking from the sinking Panamanian ship MSC Chitra.
An estimated 2,000 litres of oil has spilled from the grounded ship over three days since its collision with a St. Kitts vessel, MV Khalijia-III Saturday.
The twin ports, Mumbai Port and Jawaharlal Nehru Port, also continued to remain closed for the fourth day and maritime economic activity came to a standstill in the country’s two largest sea ports, an official said.
The dangers of many of the 120-odd cargo containers floating in the sea also proved real when one container banged into a sand barge near the Elephanta Island on Tuesday morning.
The Coast Guard and other security agencies managed to rescue at least 10 sailors aboard the sand barge, officials said.
Besides the oil and chemical pollution, the authorities are now confronted with the stocks of edible and non-edible material that have now started floating out of the ship.
Large quantities of milk powder, tea dust, packed foods, and other stuff was found floating near the seashores in Uran, Raigad and south Mumbai.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is likely to hold a meeting with the Coast Guard officials in the afternoon to discuss cleaning up operations of the sea water.
The Coast Guard continues to closely monitor the situation, especially since the presence of hazardous and inflammable chemicals laden containers in the water continues to pose a danger to maritime traffic.
Due to the numerous containers bobbing around in the main navigation channel, normal shipping activities have been suspended at the Mumbai Port and the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, the country’s largest and busiest ports handling nearly 70 percent of all maritime trade.
The marine disaster was caused by the collision between MSC Chitra with MV Khalijia-III on Saturday morning, barely five kilometres from Mumbai island.
While MV Khalijia-III sustained severe damage to its bow and has been grounded inside the port, the hull of the sinking MSC Chitra was breached near the No.2 cargo space on the port side.
Built in 1980, MSC Chitra with a tonnage of 33,113 tonnes has about 1,200 tonnes of fuel oil in the ruptured tanks on the port side and the remaining in her starboard side which is out of the water. There is 2,700 tonnes of fuel oil and 300 tonnes of diesel oil on board.
Of the total 1,219 containers it was carrying at the time of the accident, 512 were loaded on the deck, including the ones containing hazardous material, and the remaining 707 were below the deck.

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