The containership MSC Chitra and the bulk carrier Khalijia 3 collided near Mumbai, India on Saturday, resulting in the sinking of the MSC Chitra, a significant oil spill and the loss of at least 200 containers in the ship channel which posed a danger to navigation. The spill and the lost containers, both sunk and floating, shut down full port operations. Now five days later the port has reopened and the finger-pointing as to who is responsible for the collision has intensified. MSC is blaming the operation of the Khalijia 3, while local news is highlighting past safety problems on the MSC Chitra. Others are questioning the effectiveness of the response to the events by the Indian government.
A statement released by MSC reads in part: “For reasons not known to us the Khalijia 3 unexpectedly continued turning to port, and came back to cross the fairway again, now heading in a generally northbound direction, and struck the MSC Chitra on the MSC Chitra’s port side while the MSC Chitra was still properly navigating in the main channel. Therefore, it would appear that under the rules of navigation the Khalijia 3 was significantly in error.”
Local media has commented on the MSC Chitra‘s troubled safety record.
Others have questioned India’s ability to respond to oil spills and other shipping casualties.
It is legitimate to ask, for instance, whether the spread of oil discharged by the container ship MSC Chitra off Mumbai could have been better contained had sufficient booms been deployed. Also, could the containers loaded with pesticides that slipped into the sea have been recovered quickly? It is precisely to meet such challenges that a National Oil Spill Disaster Contingency Plan (NOS-DCP) was drawn up in 1996. Based on this, all ports should by now possess functional spill response systems but they clearly do not. The proceedings of the 14th NOS-DCP and Preparedness Meeting held in 2009 highlighted the slow progress in achieving full response capacity even at the basic level at Mumbai and JNPT ports.