The directorate-general of shipping has commenced a full-fledged investigation into the incident of MT Pratibha Cauvery drifting away and running aground under the influence of Cyclone Nilam last Wednesday.

Talking to The Hindu, director-general (shipping) Gautam Chatterjee said, “A full-fledged investigation has been ordered as per the rules and it will be over within a month. We cannot answer most of the questions. The findings of the investigation will throw light on various aspects.”

According to him, officials probing the matter will look into whether the ship had the requisite papers, including the IRS Certification (which is required to undertake voyage) and if not, what penalties are to be prescribed. It would also seek to ascertain who gave the marching orders to the crew and whether it was a correct decision to abandon ship.

On Saturday, a seven-member team of SMIT Salvage entered the vessel to ascertain whether there was any leakage and if water was entering it and its safety aspect. The Netherlands-based company has entered into a salvage agreement with the Mumbai-based Pratibha Shipping Company Ltd.

To save time, experts have sought the services of a powerful tug of nearly 130 bollard pull from Kakinada and it is expected to arrive on Sunday. Six tugs are available with private firms in Chennai, but they may not be of much use.

Meanwhile, the DG shipping is sending an emergency towing vessel, presently at Kochi, to Chennai and it is expected to arrive here on November 7. Besides, a chief engineer and chief surveyor are expected to join the salvage experts in an assessment exercise on Monday.

According to investigating officers, the salvage work would be over within two or three days, while the DG shipping officials expect it to be completed by Thursday or Friday.

Pratibha Cauvery left Chennai shores on September 29. At that time, it had a valid certificate and it expired on October 1. When it returned on October 8, the agent decided to keep it at outer anchorage. Moreover, the agent did not seek our permission to dock the ship inside. In other words, Cyclone Nilam exposed the weaknesses of the ship,” said Port officials.

In a related move, 29 stranded crew members of MT Pratibha Warna, belonging to the same company, wrote a letter to Chennai Port Trust alleging that they were not paid salaries since July 2012 and they were starving due to insufficient food and water on board.

DG shipping has asked the joint director to persuade the promoters to solve the basic issues immediately.

Asked whether the ship could be moved from the present spot as there was a ban imposed on its movement by the Madras High Court, Mr. Chatterjee said, “It would not be a problem. The vessel is not sitting tight on the beach. We are just lifting it and getting it afloat. Thereafter, it will be docked in Chennai Port Trust area.”

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