Even as the State government attempts to ward off panic related to an oil spill on Juhu beach on Sunday, Coast Guard ship Samudra Prahari has been neutralising oil from the sunken carrier vessel, m.v. Rak, which sank 20 nautical miles off the Mumbai coast and is leaking at an approximate rate of 1.5 to 2 tonnes per hour.

Oil spill dispersants were used as part of Operation ‘Paryavaran Suraksha-2/2011,' which was launched by the Coast Guard, according to an official statement.

An aerial reconnaissance on Sunday morning indicated that the oil had spread as far as seven nautical miles from the sunken vessel. The Coast Guard has pressed another vessel, ICGS Sankalp, to tackle the spill. The coastal authorities have been advised to maintain strict vigil and prepare for any contingency.

Fears regarding a spill had been doing the rounds since the sinking of m.v. Rak. On Saturday, oil was observed leaking from it. The State government said, in a release, that it had taken immediate steps after the slick off the Juhu coast was reported.

Advisory issued

The Commissioner of Fisheries issued an advisory to fishermen not to venture into the area where the merchant vessel had sunk. While there is an effective ban on fishing activities till August 15, the advisory was by way of precaution. The municipal corporation has been directed to alert the shoreline clean-up team and coordinate with the Coast Guard and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).

The government stated that despite the leaking oil, there was no imminent threat to the city's coast. Two Coast Guard vessels are on location to handle the spread of the spill; 600 litres of aerial dispersants have been already been used. The aerial reconnaissance done by Coast Guard helicopters on Sunday indicated that the spill off Juhu was a localised phenomenon due to reasons other than the leak from m.v. Rak.

The MPCB has deputed teams to take water samples and to identify the oil content and the source.

The statement said lab analysis would ascertain the source of the oil. Physical inspection revealed that there was furnace oil at specific locations off the Juhu coast. As of now, the oil content is about 1 to 2 mgs per litre, which is negligible. Any loss to marine life would be ascertained by the National Institute of Oceanography, as requested by the MPCB.