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Tug breaking sparks fear of oil spill

Correspondent
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MT Numo ran aground off Karwar coast five years ago

Work on breaking MT Numo, a tug used to pull ships in and out of Karwar port, began at Karwar port on January 10.
Work on breaking MT Numo, a tug used to pull ships in and out of Karwar port, began at Karwar port on January 10.

The breaking of a tug in Karwar port has caused anxiety among local fishermen who fear that the move could lead to oil-spilling. MT Numo, a tug used to pull the ships in and out of Karwar port, ran aground five years ago and remained a bone of contention between the port authorities and the owner ever since.

The 15-metre long tug with a capacity 360 gross register tonne (GRT) and owned by a Hong Kong-based company arrived in Karwar to pull out Ocean Sarai, a foreign vessel that had run aground off Karwar shores in 2008. The tug was hired by a Mumbai-based company. But it did not get the necessary certificate from the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) for a return voyage. The authorities refused to issue the sea report which comprises details of the safety of the tug. The MMD cited that there was problem in the engine of the tug and it was unfit for voyage. This led to exchange of letters between the tug owner and the port authorities of Karwar.

The stricken tug inflicted a demurrage of Rs. 4,000 a day and at the cumulative figure for five years rose to Rs. 67 lakh. But the owner of the tug refused to pay off by saying that the demurrage levied on the tug was that of a ship and insisted that MV Nomo was a tug. The port authorities had issued as many as 20 notices to the company since January 24, 2008. After a lengthy show-down, the port authorities agreed to reduce the demurrage to Rs. 6 lakh. The owner of the tug handed over the tug to a Davangere-based company to break it after obtained the necessary permission from the Pollution Control Board, said the port officials. A senior officer with condition of the anonymity said the permission was granted despite the rule that a tug or ship could not be broken at a commercial port like Karwar.

He said the owner did not have any alternative as taking the tug to Goa or Gujarat was fraught with danger as the water had already entered the tug. Taking the expediencies into consideration, the port authorities had given the go-ahead, he said and added that the tug-breaking began on January 10.

Clarifying that there was no oil spillage as the engine had completely run dry. However, local fishermen refuse to by this argument and see it as a violation of law. They want the tug-breaking to be stopped immediately.

Gaja Surangekar, a fishing trader, said there was a real risk of oil spilling which would endanger marine life and birds. Ravindra Pawar, environmentalist, said the activity would lead to pollution and might result in a fish famine.

He said that the catch had already dwindled off Karwar shores. Ratan Durgekar a fisherman leader, also demanded that the tug-breaking activity should be stopped immediately.

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