Within six months, the Mumbai harbour will have facilities to combat oil spills of up to 700 tonnes as the contract to provide the facility was awarded to M/s Sadhav Shipping Ltd by Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) recently. Under the tier-1 facility, the agency will set up a round-the-clock oil spill response (OSR) centre for five years at Jawahar Dweep, an island to the south of Elephanta Island.
Mumbai will be the first port to have an operational tier-1 OSR facility in the country, said MbPT officials. According to the National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOSDCP), all ports are required to maintain tier-I OSR facilities.
“Within six months, the tier-1 OSR will be operational from Jawahar Dweep, which is the most oil spill prone area as it handles crude oil. Mumbai will be the first port in the country to have this facility,” said R M Parmar, Chairman of MbPT. “Earlier, the machinery available with us was insufficient to handle large spills. Now, with this facility, we will have complete readiness at all times and any oil spill will be immediately addressed,” he added.
The contractor will provide boats, manpower and machinery such as booms to contain oil spills, in addition to the port trust and coast guard’s existing machinery for Rs 27.84 crore. The contractor will help expedite clean-up operations in case of oil spills due to ship sinking and pipeline ruptures within port limits as well as the ONGC installation at Uran and Nhava, while actual coordination will be done by the coast guard and port officials, said port trust officials.
“At present, time is wasted in informing different agencies about the spill, as well as in appointing agencies to begin clean-up operations. Once the protocol is in place, the response time will be reduced considerably and the agency can simply rush to the spot and begin clean-up operations. We have asked the contractor to give a detailed plan on how the facility will be set up and will monitor the process,” said P K Mirashe, assistant secretary (technical), Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
This facility was a long-awaited one as the port trust had planned to issue tenders in 2012, but the tenders were stalled due to some technical issues, said a senior official.
However, the crude oil pipeline rupture that led to destruction of marine life and mangroves in Mahul last October had once again highlighted the lack of preparedness of agencies to tackle oil spills. Taking into account the lackadaisical attitude of the MbPT towards the clean-up operations post leakage, the MPCB had given a March deadline to have the OSR facility in place.
Meanwhile, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) has been nominated as the coordinating oil company on behalf of the oil companies, while the coast guard will ensure the implementation of the National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan.
PAST OIL SPILLS IN MUMBAI
* Besides the Mahul oil spillage in October 2013, the same month an ONGC pipeline leak resulted in spilling of 5,000 litres of crude oil into the Arabian Sea, which spread to over 10 km along the coastline.
* In August 2011, MV Rak, which carries 60,000 metric tonnes of coal, 290 tonnes of furnace oil and 50 tonnes of fuel oil, sank.
* In January 2011, ONGC’s Mumbai-Uran trunk pipeline burst spilling oil across 4 sq km off the Mumbai coast.
* In August 2010, the collision between MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia III spilled over 800 tonnes of oil into the sea. MSC Chitra was loaded with 2,600 tonnes of oil at the time of the accident. Over 8.57 lakh mangroves along the coastlines of Mumbai, Thane and Raigad districts were severely affected.