September 21, 2021 6:16:12 am
A committee set up to look into the incidents that led to the sinking of a barge and the deaths of 89 persons off the ONGC offshore platform at Bombay High in the Arabian Sea during Cyclone Tauktae in May 2021 has recommended empowering the Coast Guard to move vessels back to port in such situations, according to sources in the Union Ministry of Shipping.
The committee, headed by the Director General of Shipping, has already submitted two interim reports to the Ministry of Shipping, and reviewed the compensation announced by ONGC and other stakeholders, The Indian Express has learnt.
Among its other recommendations, sources said, are that the Directorate-General of Shipping should add one more emergency vessel during the monsoon to its existing single rescue vessel on the west coast.
Accommodation barge P 305 sank in the ONGC offshore rig area when its anchors, tied to a rig, broke in the heavy winds and waves during the cyclone. The master of the barge had decided to stay on despite the weather warnings given by the meteorological department. Another tug Varaprada also sank with 11 people on board. The report is also said to have fixed blame on both AFCONS, under whom the barges were functioning, and ONGC, which had outsourced the contract for work at the right to AFCONS, for not ordering the vessels to leave the area and head back to Mumbai port in the days leading to the Cyclone.
At the moment, the Coast Guard can only issue weather advisories and give warnings to private vessels to move away from the path of bad weather and head to safe areas. In the Cyclone Tauktae, the Coast Guard had given two warnings to ONGC but they were not heeded, the sources said.
“ONGC thought they had delegated responsibility to AFCONS, but in reality they can’t be doing this as work was happening in their area,” said a source. ONGC has already suspended three of its directors for the lapses in this incident.
The state government gave a sum of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each of the deceased and ONGC announced Rs 2 lakh. AFCONS had issued a statement that it would give Rs 35-40 lakh to the kin of the deceased. Shipping Ministry sources the amount announced by ONGC is being reviewed.
P305 had 261 people on board, of whom 189 were rescued. Varaprada, which was engaged in the rescue of another vessel called Gal Constructor, sank with 11 crew on board. Two managed to swim and stay afloat until they were rescued by an Indian Navy rescue vessel.
The team investigating the incidents has also recommended that the Vessel Tracking Management system needs to be improved. They are of the view that ONGC must have specialised personnel to understand warnings from IMD and Coast Guard, said sources.
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