In a bid to prevent pollution off the Marina, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has asked the Coast Guard to move stranded vessel MT Pratibha Cauvery mid-sea within three days.
According to senior officials with TNPCB, its representatives have orally communicated this to the Coast Guard, but a letter signed by the Board’s chairman will be sent to the Coast Guard on Wednesday.
“As of now, it is safe and we do not see any threat to the immediate environment. However, since the vessel has over 357 tonnes of furnace oil and 2 tonnes of diesel, we do not want to take any chances,” a senior official told The Hindu on Tuesday.
The vessel is otherwise empty. Adding that the ship was not stationary, the official said “It keeps moving a bit due to the sea current, so it is important that it be taken mid-sea.”
TNPCB has also recommended that the furnace oil and diesel be pumped out to the extent possible, so that the tugs will be able to tow the vessel easily.
“The lighter the vessel becomes, the faster it can be towed further into the sea,” said the official. A tug from Kakinada has already arrived and the second one is on its way from Cochin.
TNPCB is also wary of the huge crowd that has been thronging the Marina to get a glimpse of the vessel that made news during cyclone Nilam. “During the weekend, over 5,000 persons visited the site. With such a huge number at the spot, it is crucial to ensure there is no pollution or lapse in environmental safety,” the official said.
Also, since the Regional Meteorological Department has predicted some rain during the week, it is better that the vessel is towed away soon, the official observed. TNPCB will also get in touch with the owner of the vessel to urge them to speed up the operation, the official said.
A week ago MT Prathiba Cauvery anchored off the Chennai Port and ran aground off Elliot’s Beach, Besant Nagar, hours before cyclone Nilam struck Chennai’s coast.
Six sailors on board the vessel died when they attempted to escape the stranded ship.