CHENNAI: Has the entire 196 tonnes of oil that is believed to have spilled into the coast of Chennai on January 28 after a British LPG tanker collided with Indian oil tanker been cleared?
It would be one of the questions to ponder, as the preliminary estimates of bunker oil leaked from the ship were given much later, when the entire cleaning of the spill has nearly concluded, say experts. While Coast Guard blames the ship owners and Kamarajar Port for maintaining that the oil that was leaked was 1.2 to 2 tonnes, the damage to the coast has been done due to leakage of such huge amount of oil that went unreported initially. “The vessel was taking in 25 tonnes of water after the oil tanker got damaged,” said official sources privy to the investigation.
It was the Coast Guard which has been maintaining that the oil spilled by MT Dawn Kancheepuram was more than what has been claimed by the vessel. Principal officer of Marine Mercantile Department S Barik said that the information flow and the human error have been a cause of concern in dealing with the oil spill. He defended the crew of MT Dawn Kancheepuram. “They panicked to save the vessel and were unaware that huge amount of bunker oil seeped into the sea.” The investigation has yet to give a final figure on the total oil spilled into the coast. A total of nearly 400 tonnes of oil sludge, oily water and oily sand had been cleared by Coast Guard.
Experts claim some of the bunker fuel that leaked could have evaporated and the remaining reached the seabed – from where it could return to haunt the shores in the form of tar balls.
The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, which was asked to run the models to predict the trajectory of oil on sea surface by providing information about only 20 tonnes of furnace oil being leaked into the sea, says that the oil would not have spread further into the sea.
INCOIS director Satish Shenoi said, “We have predicted that it could have reached Puducherry. We doubt if it could have gone further.” Some of the oily material found on the shores of Cuddalore and Puducherry is being investigated.
Meanwhile, Barik said that the investigation conducted by the Directorate General of Shipping is likely to conclude in the next 15 days.