Oil spills on Sinquerim beach

| 07 September 2000 23:06 IST

The fear of oil spill has finally come true as the cargo ship grounded in a tilted position off Sinquerim coast in North Goa is still lying untouched for the last three months while the tourist season is approaching fast.

With Coast Guard noticing the spillage on Tuesday morning and taking up emergency measures like spraying chemical dispersant to avoid environmental damage, the state administration has now woken up from a deep sleep over the issue.

Chief minister Francisco Sardinha, after personally visiting the site near Fort Aguada Beach Resort today morning, has convened a joint meeting of all the concerned government officials, the Coast Guard as well as the ship owners – the Salgaoncar Shipping, tomorrow morning.

The 240 metre-long ore carrier, bought by Salgaoncars to rebuild as a transhipper, had drifted away with rough heavy winds on 6 June, after being anchored in one place for one and a half year, when monsoons created havoc along the Goan coast in the first week of June.

Exactly six years after the oil-carrying 'M V Sea Transporter' was grounded off the Sinquerim beach, the 'River Princess' owned by Salgaoncar Shipping has drifted away to the same area. The Coast Guard had then emptied all the oil tanks, avoiding any kind of ecological disaster along Goa's famous beachline, from Sinquerim to Baga including Calangute.

"The tanks are intact, but the oil is spilling from the bottom of the ship which is broken", says Comdt V S R Murthy, Commander of the Coast Guard, who personally flew down to the spot yesterday. They have been monitoring the scene since then, though the area falls within the state jurisdiction.

As hoteliers are all worried about the whole beachline getting affected if immediate measures are not taken, tourism minister Victoria Fernandes also rushed to the spot yesterday to ascertain the damage. Though workers engaged by Salgaoncars had cleaned up the beach, she confirmed that oil marks are still visible on the shore.

The government in the meanwhile has also engaged M/s Ericcson and Ericcson, a private firm, to conduct a survey regarding the state of the ship and the oil it contains. "The report would be submitted by tomorrow", says Sanjiv Khirwar, the North Goa collector.

While the Coast Guard claims that it contains around 45 KL of high speed diesel, Khirwar states he has been informed about only 10 KL of diesel on the ship. The Coast Guard has also confirmed that its bottom has developed cracks, though owners have consistently refuted the claim.

Anil Salgaoncar, CMD of Salgaoncar Shipping, however could not be contacted even after frantic efforts. While refusing to tow the ship away after the recent Bombay experience of M V Ventura, which got grounded while being towed, he had earlier agreed to salvage it in September, after the rough sea calms down.

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