Shipping operations in Mumbai to be normalised by Sunday

Normal traffic at the Mumbai harbour, disrupted after Saturday’s collision between two freighters, is likely to be restored by Sunday but it will take at least 45 days to complete the salvage operations.

It will take five more days for normalisation of channel operations, Maharashtra Minister for Ports and Transport Radhakrishna Vikhe Patel told reporters.

Making a statement in Parliament, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said normal traffic would be restored at the harbour by August 15.

Six Coast Guard vessels and a helicopter continued to spray dispenser chemicals for the fourth day on Tuesday to neutralise the patches of oil that have spread over quite a large area along the coastline.

Foreign experts from SMIT, a Netherlands-based company, hired for salvage efforts, went into a huddle with Coast Guard officials to prepare a blueprint for preventing any further oil spill into the sea.

According to Coast Guard sources, discussions were held with Captain Eric J B Kraan, General Manager (Salvage) Asia, of SMIT. It has been decided to suck out the remaining oil in the ship, which though dangerously tilted, has steadied.

One floating crane and two tugboats would be pressed into service for picking up and towing away floating containers in the navigation channel. Nearly 25 containers that tumbled from the ship into the sea and were adrift, have been retrieved.

Of the 1219 containers on the ship, around 150 were believed to have slipped into the sea due to the tilt.

Sources said customs authorities were being liaised with for speedy clearance of the retrieved containers.

Effective salvage operations, they said, would commence from Friday.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, who had undertaken an aerial survey of the affected areas, said, “the situation is under control now”. He said it has been estimated that between 400-500 metric tonnes of oil may have spilled from the vessel which was carrying 2,662 metric tonnes of oil.

Meanwhile, terming the oil spill as a “big disaster”, the Centre has said it will make every effort to clean the polluted water as soon as possible.

“We have technology. We will try to clean the water as soon as possible,” Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan told reporters in Delhi.

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