Oil removal operation begins

| 13 September 2000 23:03 IST

In a last-minute attempt to avoid any kind of ecological destruction along the Goan coast, Salgaoncar Shipping has begun the operation of removing oil from a grounded ship off Sinquerim beach in North Goa, with the help of the Coast Guard.

"There are altogether four tanks and only 16 KL is being pumped out from one tank so far", says Comdt V S R Murthy, Commander of Coast Guard. The tank still contains more oil to be removed, he adds.

It proves beyond doubt that the claim made Anil Salgaoncar, the ship owner, that the ship does not contain more than 20 KL of oil was totally false and misguiding. The ship is grounded hardly 100 metres away from the beach on the Sinquerim-Calangute-Baga stretch since 6 June.

The 240 metre long ore carrier was left untouched by the state administration in spite of series of pleas made by the local hoteliers and panchayat, believing the owner that it does not contain much oil. "It was responsibility of the owner", says North Goa Collector Sanjiv Khirwar.

He however admits that the state administration did not take much interest till the oil started spilling out last week. Though the spill is now fully under control, Khirwar also admits that it could cause pollution along the beachline as well as the fish, if no immediate measures were taken.

After cleaning up all the oil patches from the beach, the Coast Guard has helped Anderson Marine, a firm engaged by Salgaoncars in removing the fuel furnace oil, in erecting a vertical floating wall around the ship with the help of river booms, for effective containment of the oil spill.

Though they also partially tried to plug the leakage from the ruptured bottom of the ship, Comdt Murthy says even divers cannot be sent down since the swell is very heavy. The rough weather is yet to subside with the whole western coast witnessing heavy rainfall just a week ago.

In order to make the damage control mission successful by fighting against the odds, the Coast Guard has engaged its full machinery including trained personnel from Bombay, three helicopters, one fast petrol vessel, one interceptor craft and two Gemini boats.

While the oil-filled barrels are taken away through a barge from the wrecked ship, Khirwar hopes that the whole operation could be completed by 18 September. But what would be the fate of the ship is yet to be decided, he adds.

While Salgaoncar has option of either towing it away or salvaging the ship there, the decision needs to be taken faster as tourists have already started arriving in the state while the ship is grounded right in front of the Sinquerim-Calangute stretch, the hub of Goa's beach tourism.

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