Why has the ministry of shipping failed to reverse the trend of ships bearing flags of largely cash-haven countries sinking, colliding or drifting into Indian waters?
The latest cargo vessel to sink off the Mumbai coast last Thursday is MV Rak. The ship was carrying 60,000 metric tones of coal, 290 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel all of which has sunk off the coast of India’s premier commercial city.
Prior to this accident, the unmanned vessel, MT Pavit, with both Panama and Comoros flags drifted off the coast of Mumbai. The ship remains stranded at the Juhu beach despite several efforts to tug the stranded ship to sea. The ship, an oil tanker is laden with 10 tonnes of fuel oil and another 10 tonnes of gas oil.
The Directorate of Shipping is presently holding an enquiry into how it was allowed to reach Mumbai. Defense minister A.K. Anthony is seeking a report from the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Kumar Verma on how MT Pavit managed to enter Juhu Beach undetected since this should be viewed as a serious security threat.
Activists calculate that over 100 ships have made their way into this country in this clandestine manner. Gopal Krishna, who heads ToxicsWatch Alliance, wonders why Pavit, abandoned by its crew off the Oman coast on June 29 2011, was allowed to “reach” Sikka in Gujarat since this is not a port for oil cargo. “And then, more surprisingly, how did it make its way to Juhi beach ?” he asks.
Prior to this, was the infamous collision which took place of MSC Chitra which also bore a Panama flag at the Mumbai port on August 7, 2010. MSC Chitra collided with the inbound MV Khalijia-3 and was found discharging three to four tones of oil by the hour off the city coast.
In a similar fashion, MV Wisdom with a Singapore flag got stuck on Juhu beach in Mumbai on June, 2011. The ship had run aground after breaking away from a tow ship that was lugging it to Alang for ship breaking. Nearly 80 maritime personnel and three tugs were required to remove the 9,000 tonne heavy ship from the beach.
Environmentalists worry that most of these ships are carrying hazardous waste which could include depleted uranium. Mr Krishna warned, “Most of our ports do not possess radiation detection equipment and this is a matter of grave concern.” They cite the example of Gulf Jaish and the French ship Clemenceau, both of which were turned back but Blue Lady, carrying 1,240 metric tons of radioactive material and asbestos, was allowed to be broken down at Alang.
The inter-ministerial committee of July 8, 2011, focused on both the environmental threat and also on security issues pertaining to these repeated entries with representatives from the Coastal Guards warning that emergency beacons dismantled from these ships (to cite on example) were not being deactivated and could prove a major threat.
The Directorate of Naval Intelligence has repeatedly warned that many of these ships could be involved in nefarious activities.
Aug 08, 2011
The Asian Age
Why South Asia needs a non-nuclear future - Risky nuclear energy can be replaced by safer and cheaper options in South Asia, writes Pervez Hoodbhoy.