“Why call for help from other countries?”

The former Director-General (DG), Shipping, D.T. Joseph, has hit out against the serious neglect of environmental and safety considerations in India's maritime industry. It was high time the country had its own salvage operations company, he said.

Speaking to The Hindu on Monday on the oil spill threatening Mumbai's coast, Mr, Joseph, who has been a member of several maritime organisations, said first of all he could not imagine how two ships could collide so close to the port.

Salvage operations were paramount in restoring status quo but sadly India always had to call for help from other countries. The collision and the oil leak have enormous consequences. It had held up traffic in the port, caused untold damage to marine life and compromised safety concerns, he pointed out.

Mr. Joseph said:

“Is the accident the result of a moment's carelessness? These things can only be explained after the inquiry is completed. Doing a post-mortem after the incident does not make any sense. The question is how it is allowed to happen in the first place.

“In all the international conferences I have attended when on the board of several maritime organisations, safety and environment were the prime concerns. Such an incident near Mumbai is unacceptable. As a result of the accident, the port traffic is closed, environment damaged and trade badly affected.

“Three days after the incident, salvage operations are about to begin. I have been saying all these years that we must invest in important areas like salvage operations, instead of waiting for someone from outside to be called in.”

When he was DG, Shipping, he knew about several sunken wrecks that were in the channel leading to the Mumbai port but these were never cleared. What if something happens and these wrecks moved around and caused damage? No one was worried about these things, he noted.

Priorities have to change to ensure better safety preparedness and salvage was a part of that. The Union Cabinet and top leaders have to take cognisance of the need for such important matters.

“Preventing such accidents is vital than running around figuring out what to do once they happen,” Mr. Joseph said.

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