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The Mumbai Oil Spill

The Mumbai Oil Spill

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Published by: Śáńtőśh Mőkáśhí on May 18, 2013
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There was some good news for the Indian shipping industry as the nation's two premier ports-Jawaharlal NehruPort Trust andMumbai Port Trust-reopened for business partially. Thirty-two ships had been stranded at the two ports. Most of these carry vegetable oils, steel, crude oil, and naphtha.Navy ships were pressed into service and escorted small and medium cargo ships in and out of thecanal. Vessels with a draft of less than nine meters will be allowed to use the port during high tideand under a naval escort. Authorities have stated that it will take at least another week before thebigger ships can sail through. TheIndian Navy's Western Command conducted the operation with
the help of a convoy made up of ships and helicopters. The convoy guided the ships by steeringthem clear of floating and submerged containers.The two ports were shut down for five days after two ships,MSC Chitra and MV Khalija-III,ran into each other off the coast of Mumbai on August 7
and the containers from the former spilled into the sea, leaking oil. Over 300 containers from theMSC Chitra fell into the water. The Chitra had 1,219 containers on board, of which 31 heldhazardous chemicals and pesticides.Theoil slickhas spread to a distance of two nautical miles fromthe ship. The vessel was carrying 2,662 tons of heavy oil in its various tanks and 245 tons of dieseloil. Around800 tons of oil is estimated to have spilled into the sea.The oil spill has hit shipping
companies the hardest as ship movement to and from the ports of Mumbai and JNPT had beensuspended. These two ports handle 60 percent of India's container traffic.The total number of containers handled at each of these ports had dwindled to 10-15 percent of their regular capacity. Itwas estimated that the trade loss incurred could touch the $4 billion mark if the issue was notresolved by the weekend. Exporters and importers turned to the government seeking financial relief. About 33,000-35,000 export boxes are inside the three terminals at theJN Portawaiting the arrivalof vessels for loading while nearly 20 vessels have been diverted to other ports.
Fuel Shortage
With the ports limping back into operation mode, fears of a fuel shortage in the city of Mumbai havebeen quelled. There was a possibility that the city would run out of fuel if the ports did not reopensoon. Oil and fertilizer ships will be let in on priority.However, major oil companies such asOil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC),Bharat Petroleum Corp., 
andHindustan Petroleum Corp.have sought to assuage fears by maintaining that production at their 
plants in Mumbai are normal and there is no shortage foreseen whatsoever.
Ecological Impact
The impact is already being felt along the Mumbai coastline, with fish and other marine creaturesbeing found covered with oil. The oil slick has entered the sensitive mangrove belt and is likely todamage the environment there. The shores along the green mangroves are coated with slick blackoil. Containers of pesticide are also thought to have spilled over and this is causing alarm toenvironmentalists.The government had banned fishing in the region soon after the collision occurred.The state fisheries department is carrying out random sampling at various locations throughout thecity. The state government has appointed the National Environmental Engineering ResearchInstitute and Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography to assess the environmental impact of the accident.
TheEnergy and Resource Institute (TERI)has volunteered to clean up the oil spill with its
indigenously developed and patented formula of bacteria called as'Oil Zapper.'The process uses
bacteria to clean-up the oil slick. This might help do away with the effects of the spill.
Cause of the Accident
Preliminary investigations suggest that the accident occurred as a result of communication errors. An inquiry is being conducted by the Directorate General of Shipping and a report is expected to betabled in a month. The captains of the two ships have blamed each other for the mishap. CaptainLaxman Dubey of the Khalija-III alleged that he attempted to establish radio contact with the MSCChitra thrice but received no response.Captain M Ranjit Martin, who was at the helm of the Chitra,said that it was negligence on the part of Captain Dubey that led to the accident. He claimed that theKhalija-III was not in a good condition after being grounded by Mumbai port authorities earlier inJuly. The vessel had been moving into the port when it collided with the Chitra. The Genevaheadquartered Mediterranean Shipping Company, which owns the Chitra, has stood by its captainon the issue.
Salvage Operation
SMIT Salvageis continuing with operations to clear the containers from the channel. It has cleared
about 60 containers from the sea. The cleanup operation will be tedious and time consuming as ittakes many hours to lift a container by employing metal ropes and a crane. A floating crane and twotugs have been employed to tow and pick up containers drifting in the channel.SMIT is also pumpingout the remaining fuel from the MSC Chitra to avoid any further spill. Attempts to straighten the ship,which is dangerously tilted, failed because of the weather conditions. The Chitra is tilted at an angleof about 75 degrees. Shipping officials estimate that clearing the ill-fated ship could take a fewmonths.
Middle Ground That’s the name the Coast Guard has given to the spot where MS
CChitra collided with MT Khalijia
III three kilometers off the Mumbai shore on Saturday. On Monday,when a Hindustan Times team sailed out to the spot, the sea seemed unusually calm as theprecariously listing Chitra swayed with the waves. Miraculously, the containers, stacked high on the
bow that was listing at almost a right angle, weren’t falling off. It was in an arc about 500 meters
around the vessel where it became clear that the sea was being poisoned by the fuel leaking out of its tanks. A dark froth was visible as the waves crashed against the hull. Though the slick was notvisible on the surface, the oil was visible on biscuit packets floating away from the Chitra. Acontainer at the rear of the ship had opened and it was from there that biscuits and chocolates werefloating out. The abandoned ship was completely silent, the only sound coming from the containersthat shifted with every wave. "The ship is perched on a hill right below it said Deepak Koli, afisherman who said the fish would not affected by the oil leak. Koli said the 120 containers that hadbroken loose were a bigger threat. They could sink fishing boats made of wood. "We heard a
container crashed into a boat, damaging it,” he said. Meanwhile several containers with oil traces
reached Uran. Sources said nine containers drifted there, while on was still afloat. "There were large
patches of oil at various spots near Uran. However, the slick has not touched the shore,” a Coast
Guard source said. At the Geeta Nagar slum, behind Navy Nagar, Oil washed up with the high tide.It coated the rocks and even spilled onto the streets with the seawater. Environmentalists said that if the oil reaches Alibaug it could percolate to the floor of the fragile mangrove patches. The oil couldchoke the roots and kill the plants. But scientists said the mangroves were more resilient thansmaller organisms that would get affected. Removing the oil would be difficult if it binds with thesandy or rocky habitats. Scientists are also worried about the chemicals being sprayed to neutralizethe oil. Deepak Apte, assistant director, Bombay Natural History Society, collected water samples at
Rewas and Mandwa, which had oil. "There should be surveys to check on contamination every two
days,” he said. Apte said the fl
ora and fauna in inter tidal areas and shallow waters would beaffected. Oil and toxins will accumulate in smaller fish, which will enter the food chain because large
fish feed on them,” said Apte. Apart from the oil affecting marine life, scientists worki
ng in fisheriessaid oil would obstruct light from penetrating the water. The absence of photosynthesis will affect the
growth of floating plants,” said C.S. Purshottaman, head aquatic environment management division,
Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Versova.
 It is a mass of floating oil covering an area of water, especially oil that has leaked ordischarged from a ship or liquid petroleum hydrocarbon from an oil tanker, Commonlyreferred to as marine oil spills and a form of pollution, they include releases of crude oilfrom tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refinedpetroleum products
gasoline and diesel-and heavier fuels used by large ships, such asbunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil.
 When oil stops floating on the surface, it starts to sink into the sea. It reduce theoxygen content in the water and can kill or contaminate fish and smaller organismsimportant to the underwater ecosystem. An oil spill can also take a toll if large numbersof fish eggs or larvae are exposed to it.
 When mammals such as whales and dolphins swallow oil, it can clog their lungs andmake it difficult for them to breathe. It also disrupts their ability to communicate.Marine mammals could die of poisoning because they could eat fish exposed to the oil.
 Birds that swim and dive for food can get their feathers coasted with oil, making itdifficult for them to fly. It also destroys their waterproofing and insulation, thusexposing them to overheating. If they swallow the oil, it damages their internal organsand could lead to death. Oil spills can also disrupt migratory patterns by contaminatingareas where migrating birds normally stop. For instance, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in1989 at Alaska killed 250,000 to 500,000 sea birds.
 The plants absorb the oil which chokes their roots and damages the fragile eco-system.
 Spill can affect nesting and breeding cycles as well as seasonal migrations of variousspecies.

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