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| Monday , August 8 , 2011 |

Oil spill threatens Mumbai coast - Black water seen on Juhu beach while coastguard checks leaks from two foreign ships
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Mumbai, Aug. 7: Oil spills have been reported from two ships off the Mumbai coast, with patches of oil reaching Juhu beach this morning and confronting the city with an ecological threat. The Juhu patches are apparently of the less harmful lubricating oil. They seem to be coming from the unmanned MT Pavit that beached in Mumbai last week after being abandoned by its crew in Oman about 1,300km away. The bigger danger is the thick fuel oil being spilled since yesterday by MV Rak, a cargo vessel that sank 20 nautical miles off the Mumbai coast on Thursday. According to the coastguard, the oil is leaking at a rate of 1.5 tonnes to 2 tonnes per hour and has spread up to seven nautical miles, which means it was 13 nautical miles (24km) from the coast this evening. Last year, a collision between two ships had caused a major oil spill across Maharashtra’s coastline. Coastal authorities have advised the state to warn fishermen not to venture near the MV Rak spill. The coastguard said it had launched Operation Paryavaran Suraksha-2/2011, with vessels spraying dispersants to neutralise the oil spill from the ship. The MV Rak, a Panama-flagged vessel carrying 60,000 tonnes of coal from Indonesia to Dahej in Gujarat, sank after water entered the cargo hull, officials said. The ship was also carrying 290 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel. A coast guard official said the ship’s metal oil tank may not have ruptured yet and the leak may have been caused by the entry of water into the cargo hull.
A boy show s his oil-covered palms at Juhu beach on Sunday. (AFP)

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The MT Pavit was carrying 30 tonnes of oil. A state pollution control board team has collected samples from Juhu beach. “There is oil presence on the beach. It is not continuous but is spread patch by patch,” board official Y.B. Sontakke said. Lubricating oil is used to run ship machinery such as purifiers, while the engine runs on the heavy fuel oil and the generators on diesel, a marine expert said. “The damage caused by lubricating oil would be much less than that from the thick fuel oil,” he said. A salvage operation on the MT Pavit will be conducted after coast guard authorities approve a plan by the ship’s owners and insurers. Worried environmentalists are waiting to find out in which direction the MV Rak spill would drift.

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“This is the time for mangrove seeding and any possibility of the spill reaching the shore is worrying. The coal or an oil spill will kill the seeds and affect mangrove regeneration,” said Deepak Apte, deputy director of the Bombay Natural History Society. Authorities are contacting the Qatar-based owners of MV Rak, whose 30 rescued crew members are in Mumbai. The captain and the chief engineer were arrested for negligence but have been released on bail.

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