PANAJI: The Indian Coast Guard rescued four crew members from an off shore casino vessel which got stuck on a sandbar off Miramar beach near here, evoking sharp reaction from the opposition Congress which demanded immediate arrest of the owner and a statement by the chief minister.
One of the crew members was injured while the other three were found suffering from sea sickness following the incident which took place last night.
The ship, MV Lucky 7, was being brought from Mormugao harbour to Mandovi river in Panaji where it is supposed to be anchored.
"The vessel got stuck in the Aguada sandbar off the Miramar coast. We received a call last night to rescue the crew members who were in distress," Deputy Inspector General of Indian Coast Guard Manoj Badkar told PTI.
A Coast Guard helicopter was pressed into action and the four crew members, including one who was injured, were rescued. The three other rescued crew members of the vessel were extremely sea sick, Badkar said.
There were 15 more crew members, including the vessel's master on board, but there was no request to rescue them, he said, adding that the Coast Guard is in touch with the state government to help them in case of any oil spillage from the ship.
In the evening, the ship drifted, apparently due to wind and the direction of the water current, and ran aground at the beach.
MV Lucky 7 is the sixth off shore casino vessel which has been permitted by the state government to operate in the Mandovi river.
The casino is learnt to be owned by former Haryana minister Gopal Kanda.
Aanand Madgaonkar, an expert salvager told reporters at Miramar beach today that the crew members took high risk unnecessarily to bring the vessel to the Mandovi river from Mormugao harbour when it is well known that the Aguada sandbar area is closed for navigation (during the monsoon).
He said the vessel owner could have waited till September when the sandbar is opened for traffic and then brought to the Mandovi river.
The vessel should be removed from the sandbar or else it will affect the Miramar beach, he said.
Notably, the BJP-led Goa government had last month promised in its 'common minimum programme' that it would shift the off-shore casinos from the river.
A group of NGOs in Goa has been opposing the off shore casinos on the Mandovi river that flows along the Panaji city, alleging that they block the channel of the movement of ships.
Some activists have also claimed that the casinos are promoting a social evil.
Meanwhile, the opposition Congress has demanded that owner of the vessel be arrested immediately.
"An attempt was made to bring in the casino (vessel) in the river illegally by pressuring the Captain of Ports. The casino has been grounded. A few workers have been injured," AICC Secretary Girish Chodankar told reporters.
He said the ship has more than 12,000 litres of diesel.
"If that diesel is spilled, then it would affect the environment adversely. Who should be held responsible? The chief minister should make a statement," the Congress leader said, adding the owner of the vessel should be held responsible and arrested.
"The casino (ship) is stuck. Its owner should be arrested immediately," he said.
Chodankar said he had recently warned the state government about the risk involved in shifting the vessel to Mandovi river during monsoon.