MARITIME | Indian main port conditions remain restricted

Jawaharlal Nehru Port and Mumbai set to handle between six and 12 vessels as they struggle with knock on effects MSC Chitra casualty

INDIA’s main container port complex has resumed extremely restricted operations, after a three-day shutdown caused by a collision between a boxship and a bulker on Saturday.

Although reports from the country vary, it seems that Jawaharlal Nehru Port and adjoining Mumbai were set to handle between six and 12 vessels in the course of Thursday, as they struggle to get to grips with the knock on effects of the casualty.

The job of recovering all of the 250-300 boxes that spilled from MSC Chitra is still ongoing, with a government minister on record as stating that the the task could take until Saturday. The Singapore wing of Smit International is among those engaged in the effort.

However, the navigational channel has been cleared, allowing some ships to enter and leave under Indian navy escort. A defence spokesman told the Press Trust of India: “The Indian Navy commenced escorting a convoy of merchant ships to and out of Mumbai port from 1000 hrs. Seven ships have been escorted out of the harbour while five are being escorted into the harbour.”

Merchant shipping was given aerial assistance in navigation by a helicopter while a minesweeper with two survey boats equipped with sonar scanners ensured that the channel was clear for the convoy.

Around 30 of the boxes are thought to hold hazardous chemicals but analysis of water samples show no signs of contamination so far.

A spill of bunker fuel is causing another headache. Around 32 ships were as of yesterday awaiting the opportunity to leave the two ports.

The development comes after Mediterranean Shipping Co, owner of 1980-built, 2,134 dwt MSC Chitra, issued a statement earlier this week essentially exonerating its own vessel and loading the blame on 1985-built, 45,798 dwt Khalijia 3. Black box data shows that Khalijia 3 was “significantly in error”, MSC says.

Nobody at the company widely identified as the operator of the latter ship was available to discuss the claim or to put its side of the story after Lloyd’s List made telephone and email contact yesterday.

Maharashtra state government said that rough seas had acted to prevent work on stabilising MSC Chitra and pumping out its bunkers from commencing. Nobody at MSC was available to give an update on the situation facing the ship.

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