The Orissa coast faces devastation if the large amount of oil now inside a capsized ship off the Paradip port spills out of the wreck, international NGO Greenpeace said Thursday.

MV Black Rose, a Mongolian registered vessel, sank Sep 9 with 924 tonnes of furnace oil aboard. The port authorities have said 900 tonnes of the oil — in semi-solid state — is still inside the ship, but there have been small spills. Pollution control authorities have reported patches of oil on the coast three to four km away.

“As we move forward, the focus should not be solely on the response to the oil spill, but more importantly on preventing such accidents,” Sanjiv Gopal, the organisation’s oceans campaign manager said in a statement.

“The government must force the vessel owners to abide by the polluter pays principle, and hold them accountable for damages to the environment, for economic losses in the area, and for the expenses of the clean-up,” he said.

“Greenpeace is closely monitoring the effects of the spill, which is close to the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary, home to the endangered Olive Ridley turtles, and the Bitharkanika National Park, which harbours India’s second largest mangrove ecosystem and has the largest population of salt-water crocodiles in India,” he said.

The vessel ran aground near the harbour area of the port in the district of Jagatsinghpur, some 100 km from state capital Bhubaneswar. Apart from the 924 tonnes of furnace oil, it was carrying about 25,000 tonnes of iron ore fines.

Twenty seven crew members were on board. All but a Ukrainian engineer, whose body was found 10 days later, were rescued.

The Paradip Port Trust (PPT) has so far not been able to retrieve the oil and has contacted national and international firms for help in the clean-up.

Greenpeace said it respects the challenges the authorities face in minimising the impact of the spill.

“This is an urgent wake-up call on the larger issue of coastal development. The short coastline of Orissa (480 km) could see the development of over 10 ports in the next decade. Accidents of this kind across 10 ports would devastate Orissa’s fragile coastal and marine environment, and the thousands of fishermen dependent on it,” said Mr. Gopal.

“Oil can have subtle and long-lasting negative effect, like seriously impacting fish stocks. Oil can also bio-accumulate up through the food chain as predators (including humans) eat fish that have sub-lethal amounts of oil in their bodies,” he said.