The Coast Guard claims it has “almost extinguished” the devastating fire on the derelict vessel Mol Comfort. But alarmingly, the wreck carrying around 3,000 containers of highly toxic cargo is ‘listing dangerously’ and is reportedly likely to go down.
The Coast Guard maintains that the vessel — some 403 nautical miles off Mumbai now — does not pose environmental danger to the Indian coast at this stage. However, maritime experts are of the view that the noxious cargo could virtually set off widespread damage to the marine environment.
“It’s a well-known fact that in order to save on freight, shippers often declare dangerous goods as some harmless items. MoL Comfort could carry materials compared in effect to weapons of mass destruction if leaked or inflamed or mixed with sea water. Burned out or still burning, MOL Comfort remnants may pose a grave threat to a coast or a port it’s towed to,” Mikhail Voytenko of Maritime Bulletin has warned in an article.
Mr. Voytenko assumes that the vessel had some basic design flaw that made it vulnerable to “wrongly calculated weight distribution due to wrongly declared weights.”
Meanwhile, Coast Guard has said that the tug Urja operated by the Shipping Corporation of India is still towing the vessel from India’s western coast towards Oman’s Port Sohar.
Coast Guard’s specialist vessel Samudra Prahari, which has been trying to douse the fire on Mol Comfort since July 8, was on Wednesday forced to carry out medical evacuation of the SCI tug’s chief engineer, M.D. Naik, in hostile sea conditions. Mr. Naik had severed a finger while working on the machinery on board the tug on Tuesday. He was transported to Samudra Prahari during a weather window on Wednesday. The ship is now heading for Mumbai.
Mitsui OSK Lines, which owns Mol Comfort, said that almost all containers aboard the derelict vessel were burnt in the fire.
The 300-metre-long Mol Comfort, laden with about 4800 containers, broke into two on its way from Singapore to Jeddah on June 17. Its aft along with 1,700 containers sank in the following days and the fore, being towed to Oman, caught fire when it was some 360 nautical miles off Mumbai.
Though the exact nature of the entire cargo has not been declared by the owners, the Coast Guard the other day made it known that the material on board the vessel was hazardous noxious material.