Chennai oil spill

‘Port, vessel owners’ response to oil spill tardy’

Early on Saturday, two cargo ships collided at the Kamarajar Port at Ennore, Chennai. MT Maple was leaving the port after offloading an LPG consignment. MT Dawn Kanchipuram (pictured here) was entering with a full load of petrol and lubricants.

Early on Saturday, two cargo ships collided at the Kamarajar Port at Ennore, Chennai. MT Maple was leaving the port after offloading an LPG consignment. MT Dawn Kanchipuram (pictured here) was entering with a full load of petrol and lubricants.   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Even as they have joined hands with thousands of volunteers in cleaning up the Chennai coast that has been hit by a massive oil spill, Coast Guard officials hinted on Friday that an early response from both Kamarajar Port in Ennore and the shipping companies that owned the vessels involved in the collision could have made a significant difference in combating the situation.

Though the officials said that around 34,000 square metres were affected and the oil had spread to five different places along the coast, they added that most of the oil spill off the coast of Chennai on the surface had been cleared. They hoped that the beaches that lay south of the Marina can be cleaned and restored over the next 4 to 5 days.

On Friday, a Coast Guard ship was sprinkling dispersant chemicals on the assorted patches of oil remaining on the surface. This would help solidify the oil, which could then settle down in the bottom of the sea. Speaking to The Hindu onboard the Coast Guard vessel, Rajan Bargotra, Inspector-General, Commander, Coast Guard Region (East), said much of the responsibility rested on the Ennore port and the company that owned the vessel.

“It happened near the Ennore port. They should have done more. We could only go to the site three-and-a-half hours after the incident. Since then, we had done 19 helicopter sorties to spray oil dispersant chemical over the last few days. As on Friday morning, most of it had been cleared.”

Mr. Bargotra also appeared to contradict the claim of MT Dawn Kanchipuram, the company which owns the vessel, that only one tonne to two tonnes of oil were released into the Bay of Bengal. “While it is difficult to accurately estimate the amount of oil released since the thickness of the oil sheets had reduced, we estimate that it could be around 20 tonnes, considering 72 tonnes of oil sludge has been removed so far. If the oil sheets were thick, we could have contained them in the waters itself, preventing it from reaching the shore,” he said.

“Wherever we could use chemicals, we did. We were also wary of using more chemicals to clean up a pollutant because oil dispersant chemical is also a pollutant in itself. The better option is what is being done now — cleaning the sludge manually,” he said.

Coast Guard officials added that the 1.5-2 km stretch north of the Marina beach was the worst affected. “RK Nagar Kuppam has been the worst affected. Scientists from R & D division of Indian Oil Corporation will be using marine bacteria to break down complex chemicals to treat the oil-contaminated beach line. We are expecting that the beaches can be restored in three weeks,” said P. Raveendran, chairman, IRTS, Chennai Port.

The Coast Guard official sought to allay the fears of the fishermen and turtle conservationists about the impact of the oil spill. “Most of the fears of fishermen that their catch would be unsafe are misplaced. When they take out their boats and see the blue sea, they will realise this,” he said.

Mr. Bargotra added that removing oil from the rocks would take much more time.

Navy joins operation

The Navy has deployed its personnel in the efforts being undertaken to clear the oil in the northern parts of the city.

On request of the Coast Guard, 50 Navy personnel have been deployed between Kasimedu and Thiruvottiyur to assist in the shoreline clean-up in coordination with other agencies, a Navy release said.

Assistance of over 30 Navy personnel has also been extended to officials of the Greater Chennai Corporation to help them clean the seafront in the Marina and Adyar. “More people have been kept on stand-by for deployment as requested by Coast Guard,” the release added.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2020 12:57:43 PM |

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