Maritime crisis looms as two tankers stranded off Mumbai

Mumbai, June 15 (IANS) Two huge oil tankers stranded off the Mumbai coast could pose serious risks of marine accidents and ecological problems, a top maritime authority said here Saturday.

The oil tankers – MT Pratibha Tapi and MT Pratibha Indrayani – belong to Pratibha Shipping Co. Ltd, Mumbai, and are the subject of a legal dispute for quite some time, according to Directorate General of Shipping (DGS).

Accordingly, they are lying at anchor off Mumbai since the past couple of months, but in view of the severe monsoons on the Maharashtra coast, MT Pratibha Tapi is dragging anchor and could get stuck somewhere on the coast in the next few days.

All concerned agencies – the DGS, Indian Coast Guard, Mumbai port authorities, Indian Navy, Maritime Board, the state government and BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation – are on a state of high alert to ward off any eventuality.

The DGS said that though it had warned the PSCL well in advance to maintain the ships in a seaworthy condition or decommission them before the monsoon, it (the warning) went unheeded.

Both vessels have around 200 tons of fuel oil on board, raising ecological concerns and the DGS had permitted the PSCL to reduce the crew aboard the ships a few months ago as the company was facing a financial crunch.

A few days ago, the two ships were positioned around 15 nautical miles off Mumbai coast, but have now drifted to around six nautical miles with the possibility of hitting the coast in the next five-six days, officials said.

A high-level meeting of top officials from various departments and the PSCL was held in Mantralaya two days ago to hammer out a solution to the impending maritime crisis.

“The owner (PSCL) has been directed by DGS to remove the ships from the present position off Mumbai coast either by scrapping them or making them operational without further delay,” the DGS said.

The DGS also urged PSCL to hire salvage tugs to tow the ships to a safe place or port and issue necessary navigational warning to shipping in and around the busy Mumbai Harbour.

The ministry of shipping has sanctioned two Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs), one stationed at Mumbai and another at Chennai to safeguard the western and eastern coast against such maritime hazards.

The move came after a ship, MV Wisdom, being towed from Colombo to Gujarat’s Alang Port for being scrapped, snapped from its tug during heavy monsoons in June 2011 and drifted to Juhu Beach after initial fears that it could be pushed by the strong waves to the Rajiv Gandhi Bandra Worli Sea Link.

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