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India has brought international experts to prevent a major oil spill from a stranded cargo ship that had caught fire in the Bay of Bengal close to the world’s largest mangrove forest in the ecologically-sensitive Sundarbans last month.
The government on Monday said a “minor oil leakage” took place from the vessel but it was being attended to. India’s Directorate General of Shipping and its allied office, Mercantile Marine Department, Kolkata the Indian Coast Guard and various authorities have been constantly monitoring the developments as efforts to salvage the ship MV SSL Kolkata continued, a statement issued by the Defence Ministry said.
“There is no apparent damage caused to the environment as of now except a minor oil leakage from vessel which is being attended to with means of oil spill combating gear. Investigation by the Directorate is under progress.
The vessel is grounded at about eight nautical miles off the ecologically sensitive Sundarbans since June 13 when its cargo area had caught fire following an explosion. All 22 crew members were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard.
The operations to salvage the ship continued in rough weather conditions with 2-4 metre waves in the Bay of Bengal.
The Salvors and M/s SMIT International are at the site since the beginning of the incident on June 15 and vessels, tugs, crane barges and oil spill response equipment have been mobilized and deployed for salvage and oil recovery operations, the statement said.
The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), a leading marine ship pollution response advisor, has also been appointed as specialists for advising and coordinating with local authorities. A team from Oil Spill Response Ltd. (OSRL), the world’s largest industry-funded agency for oil spill recovery, is also on site to initiate preventive measures in the event of oil pollution.
Due to shallow waters at the spot where the ship is stranded, only small fishing vessels, trawlers or vessel with less draft can approach the ship and inclement weather due to south west monsoon is also proving to be a challenge.
Shallow draft barges have been requisitioned from Singapore and the UAE and are expected to reach the site soon which will facilitate bunker oil and cargo removal operations, according to the statement.
A team from Le Floch Depollution, a specialised clean up contactor with expertise in mangroves, is also on site near the Sundarbans. A helicopter dispersant system is also being tested by the Indian Air Force team. Ends

New Delhi Correspondent