Chennai spill enquiry launched as minister claims it was 'human error'

Directorate General of Shipping to look into the factors that caused the incident.



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Updated on 06 Feb 2017 14:25 GMT

Cleanup operations have been continuing at Kamarajar, Chennai, following a collision between the LPG tanker BW Maple and the oil and chemical tanker MT Dawn Kanchipuram on 28th January. The Dawn Kanchipuram suffered a rupture and fuel leak as a result of the incident.

According to India's Ministry of Shipping, once the Dawn Kanchipuram was examined after the collision, it was decided to berth the vessel at the port to immediately discharge cargo in order to prevent any environmental damage.

"The Kamarajar Port carefully brought this vessel to the port which was a very challenging task since the main engine of the vessel was not in operation and the berthing movement had to be carried out as a cold move. This major step averted the possibility of a major oil spill disaster," the Ministry of Shipping explained.

A cleanup operation involving more than 2,000 people has been ongoing since the leak was detected. At Ernavur, which saw the most sludge, booms have been deployed along the shoreline to contain the spill. More than 1,000 people were deployed there with portable pollution cleaning equipment for shoreline cleaning. Also, three Super Suckers and submersible pumps have been deployed to remove the oil spill and the Coast Guard has been using oil spill dispersants.

According to the Ministry of Shipping, the total amount of sludge (mixture of oil, water, ocean material etc.) that was removed up until 2nd February was 65 tonnes. Super Suckers are said to have also removed 54 tonnes which contained 70 percent water.

On 3rd February, around 21.1 tonnes of additional sludge was removed from Ernavoor, the Indian government said. Sludge at R.K. Nagar (3.40 tonnes), Marina (7.50 tonnes), Sakthi Nagar and Gandhi Nagar (5.40 tonnes) and Elliot (0.62 tonnes) was also recovered. The quantities include water and sand also.

"It is observed that there is a vast difference between quantity of oil spilled and sludge recovered due to the fact that the oil gets coagulated and becomes puffy when it is mixed with water, sand etc.," the Ministry of Shipping explained on Saturday, whilst adding that 90 percent of the oil removal work had been completed.

On the issue of fuel leaking from the MT Dawn Kanchipuram, State Fisheries Minister Jayakumar said on Monday: "The leakage from the ship has been totally arrested."

He also told reporters that the collision was "an unfortunate incident caused by human error".

Investigation

The Directorate General of Shipping (D.G. Shipping) has launched an enquiry under the Merchant Shipping Act to ascertain the causes and contributory factors that led to the collision. Both the ships have been prevented from leaving the port.

D.G. Shipping is also holding discussions with the owners of the ships and the P&I insurers of MT Dawn Kanchipuram are said to be in the process of establishing a 'claims desk' and specifying the procedures for submitting and handling claims.

A representative from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) is said to already be in Chennai.