Sunday 18 November 2018

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Society | Environment

Grounded ship endangers North Goa coast

 

A cargo ship, grounded off the Goan coast in a tilted position for over a month, has become the matter of worry for the hotel industry here, especially in the northern coastal belt of the state.

"The ecology of the region rests on a virtual time bomb which is ticking", say the hoteliers running five star hotels along the Sinquerim-Baga coast, fearing oil spillage that could damage the whole beachline and affect the marine life adversely.

The Coast Guard, which normally rushes to arrest any kind of environmental damage in such circumstances, however appears to be cool stating that the out-of-use ship contains marginal oil, while ruling out any possibility of spillage.

It is a coincidence that exactly six years after the oil-carrying 'M V Sea Transporter' was grounded off the Sinquerim beach, the 'River Princess' owned by Salgaonkar Shipping has drifted away to the same area, that too on the same day – 6 June.

It is the 240 metre-long ore carrier bought by Salgaonkars to rebuild as a transhipper, which drifted away with rough heavy winds, after being anchored in one place for one and a half year, when monsoons created havoc along the Goan coast.

"I plan to salvage it after monsoons in September. The ship is very strong and quite safe in the present place", says Anil Salgaonkar, the CMD of Salgaonkar Shipping. He flays the fear of oil spillage claiming that the ship does not contain any oil.

"Then why the government authorities are not coming forward to tell the public that it does not contain any oil", asks Arvind Chopra, general manager of Whispering Palms. Even the local panchayat's efforts have failed in spite of directly approaching chief minister Francisco Sardinha.

"Besides ecological damage, tourism industry would be the first victim of it. Even the global tour operators have expressed concern over the matter", informs Joaquim Monteiro, general manager of the Taj Holiday Village.

While admitting that the ship is not insured, Salgaonkar says he is not prepared to tow it away in such a bad weather after the recent Bombay experience of M V Ventura, which got grounded while being towed.

The Coast Guard here however is prepared to get tugs to pull the ship out, but only if the local state government takes initiative since it falls within the state jurisdiction. They have however already rescued the 14 crew members from the ship.

The state authorities however appear not to have geared up for any action till date. "We will approach the Coast Guard to get the tugs for rescue operations", says Sanjeev Khirwar, the North Goa collector.

"Salvage is possible even in this bad weather, but it may cost more than what the owners could recover by scrapping the vessel in its present location", opines Anil Madgaonkar, a well-known Goan ship salvager at national level.

The hoteliers fear because the ship has already tilted which, according to them, may be due to leakage being developed in the vessel. "Oh no, it is simply because the sand on one side below the ship has washed away", claims Salgaonkar while no authority has bothered even to confirm why it has tilted.






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