Mumbai spill: Focus shifts to fuel removal

Specialist team from Europe is contracted to help pump out the remaining fuel on board the MSC Chitra.

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Updated on 10 Aug 2010 10:18 GMT

A fuel oil leak from the stricken Panamanian cargo ship MSC Chitra has been plugged, according to the Indian Coast Guard, which reports that the task of stemming the flow of oil into the Arabian Sea, dubbed Operation Chitra, has been successful.

The news comes three days after the collision of the MSC Chitra with another Panamanian cargo vessel - MV Khalijia-111 - off the Mumbai coast on Saturday, causing the bunker spill to take place.

Approximately 400-500 tonnes of bunker fuel is estimated to have flowed from the MSC Chitra's fuel tanks as a result of the incident.

Before the collision, MSC Chitra is thought to have been holding 2662 tonnes of fuel, 283 tonnes of marine diesel oil (MDO) and 88040 litres of lubricant oil. The ship was carrying a cargo of 1,219 containers, thirty-one of which are understood to have had pesticide in them.

The MV Chitra tilted sharply under the impact of the collision, resulting in approximately 300-400 containers tumbling into the open sea.

A specialist team from the Netherlands has been contacted to help pump out the 2,200 tonnes of fuel thought to still remain inside the ship's fuel tanks.

The Coast Guard and the Navy have continued to carry out anti-pollution operations for the fourth consecutive day today in an effort to neutralize the oil spill.

The collision led to India's busiest port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, being shut on Monday with traffic also being suspended yesterday as the containers still floating into the sea were said to be making navigation hazardous.

Three crude tankers carrying around 1.5 million barrels of crude oil for Bharat Petroleum Corporation were reported to have been held up as a result of the spill.

The Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board is looking into the possible environmental impact along the coastline and officials are also looking into the possible reasons why Saturday's collision took place.

According to Maharashtra Environment Minister Suresh Shetty, the incident appears to have occurred following a miscommunication between the control and the captains of the ships because of a frequency problem.