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Ship Stranded off Sundarbans: India conducts ops to prevent major oil spill

      07/18/2018

India has roped in international expertise to prevent a major oil spill from a stranded cargo ship that caught fire in the Bay of Bengal close to the Sundarbans even as the government yesterday said a “minor oil leakage” took place from the vessel.

India's Directorate General of Shipping and its allied office, Mercantile Marine Department, Kolkata, the Indian Coast Guard and various authorities have been constantly monitoring the developments as efforts to salvage MV SSL Kolkata continued, said a statement issued by the defence ministry.

“There is no apparent damage caused to the environment as of now except a minor oil leakage from vessel which is being attended to with means of oil spill combating gear. Investigation by the directorate is under progress.”

The vessel has been grounded at about eight nautical miles off the Indian side of Sundarbans since June 13 when its cargo area caught fire following an explosion. All 22 crew members were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard.

The operations to salvage the ship continued in rough weather with 2-4 metres of waves in the Bay.

The Salvors and M/s SMIT International are at the site and vessels, tugs, crane barges and oil spill response equipment have been mobilised and deployed for salvage and oil recovery operations, the statement said.

The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, a leading marine ship pollution response adviser, has also been appointed as specialists for advising and coordinating with local authorities.

A team from Oil Spill Response, the world's largest industry-funded agency for oil spill recovery, is also there to initiate preventive measures in the event of oil pollution.

Due to shallow waters at the spot, only small fishing vessels, trawlers or vessels with less draft can approach the ship and inclement weather due to south west monsoon is also proving to be a challenge.

Shallow draft barges have been requisitioned from Singapore and the UAE and are expected to reach the site soon, which will facilitate bunker oil and cargo removal operations.

A team from Le Floch Depollution, a specialised clean up contactor with expertise in mangroves, is also on site near the Sunderbans. A helicopter dispersant system is also being tested by the Indian Air Force team.