The Bangladeshi merchant ship, 80-meter long, that drifted towards Visakhapatnam Beach, has become a cause of worry for environmentalists and experts who have served in the shipping industry.
The 3,000-tonne cargo vessel MV Maa ran adrift from the anchorage point and near Tenneti Park in Visakhapatnam early on Tuesday. It had lost both the anchors due to a deep depression that had crossed near the coast.
Experts feel that the ship has to be towed back and recovered to the high seas before it becomes a permanent feature on the coast, and end up like MV River Princess in Goa.
The MV River Princess was a 1.14 lakh-tonne oil tanker that ran aground on June 6, 2000, due to a cyclone at the Candolim beach in Goa. The ship could not be salvaged or towed back and remained on the beach for over 12 years, and it had to be dismantled part-by-part in situ, creating a lot of ecological and environmental problems.
Marine Chief Engineer S.V. Durga Prasad, who also served in the Mercantile Marine Department said “To avoid such a fate, the authorities concerned such as Visakhapatnam Port Trust and the district administration, should pressure the ship owners and agents to see that the vessel is towed back to safety at the earliest. Any ship that runs aground, should be removed as fast as possible, otherwise, it can become a huge environmental issue. Luckily, in this case, there is no oil spill, and efforts are on to remove the diesel stock of around 40 tonnes onboard. Not only oil, but a ship also carries a lot of contaminants, and over the years, it only increases and that is why it needs to be pulled back to safety on a war footing.”
Mr Prasad pointed out that pulling it back might not be a very difficult task, as the ship to date looks stable and it was a small ship of only about 3000 tonnes and not as huge as River Princess that weighed over 1.14 lakh tonnes DWT. Once the tide was on the higher side, high-power tugs could be used to tow it, he said.
The rescue operation was reportedly assigned to Erickson Company. The district collector said that administration will extend its help in unloading the fuel from the vessel to tankers and the remaining operations will be taken care by the Indian Navy, Coast Guard (ICG), port, and other authorities. According to sources, fuel would be unloaded from the ship to tankers first to avoid any oil pilferage during the rescue operation. After that, the sand under the ship would be cleared and it would be dragged into the waters with the help of tugs.
Meanwhile, it is learned that VPT had approached DG Shipping, and a team would be surveying the damage and asking the owners to take up the salvage operation. According to a senior VPT official, it was the responsibility of the owner to take care of the operation. They may fund it themselves or ask Protection and Indemnity Club to do it, he said.
Sources in VPT say that there appeared to be no power onboard the ship and that could be one reason, why the engines had died down.
“The engines might not have functioned and that is why the ship drifted towards the shore, after losing both its anchors, due to the high wind speed on that day. Ideally, the ship should have sailed towards the high seas or moved into the safety of the harbour, after we clearly gave the options and update on the weather,” sources said.
“We are ready to supply the required number of tugs and manpower and the Indian Coast Guard is ready for containing any oil spill or rescue the crew on board. It is now up to the owners of the ship to take a call,” said a senior officer from VPT.he owners of the ship to take a call,” said a senior officer from VPT.