13 July 2011

Administration positions an emergency towing vessel on coast:

As a result of the recent grounding incident of M. V. Wisdom at a popular beach in Mumbai the Indian Maritime Administration has deployed a tow on the Indian coast to attend to exigencies.

When M. V. Wisdom lost her tow about 10 nautical miles off Mumbai on 11th June 2011 and subsequently got grounded at the popular Juhu Chowpati beach, it brought with it a host of miseries and problems. Not only the salvager attempting to refloat the stranded ship could work uninterrupted but the surging crowds flocking to the scene to satisfy their curiosity caused unprecedented traffic jams, stampedes and loss of three lives besides disturbance to the inhabitants of the area for all of three weeks. 

On 2nd July, 2011 when the ship was floated again and towed away it seems to have left behind a lot of “wisdom” some of which the maritime administration was quick to seize. Accordingly, the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India deployed on a regular basis an Emergency Towing vessel (ETV) ready to respond at short notice to deal with any exigencies. This is to ensure that there is no disruption of traffic in and out of the ports like it happened when there was a collision between MSC Chitra with Khalijia III which led to the ports of Mumbai and JNPT closing down for more than a week.

M. V. Wisdom, Singapore flag, an unmanned vessel of 9,367 GT being towed from Colombo to Alang for scrapping. It does not have any fuel on board. But this is not the first time that a ship has been grounded on the West coast of India – Mumbai. There have been a number of accidents on the coast recently. Few years back as many as 11 vessels got grounded on the Indian coast during the ravaging monsoon.

The ETV deployed for this new task is owned by Salvers SMIT International and chartered by the state owned, Shipping Corporation of India on behalf of the government. It is equipped with adequate salvage equipment having 80 tons bollard pull. It is manned by qualified and experienced personnel. This same vessel, SMIT LUMBA flag Singapore was used for pulling the stranded ship M.V. Wisdom and will now be available for similar task on both the East and West coast in the future. 

“The ETV will undertake basically towing operation like any ambulance - that picks up and take to a safe location,” stated a spokesman of SMIT Salvage. “Having a dedicated vessel on the coast for this task helps to do away with the lengthy procedure government departments have to adhere to each time for chartering vessels, including calling for tenders, undertaking the selection process, inspecting the selected vessel, negotiations and other time consuming exercises each time an accident takes place.’

According to an official of the Directorate General of Shipping there are not so many accidents taking place on the East coast of India and the traffic is very limited. Hence the vessel has been deployed on the West coast.

“We felt the need to have some sort of towing vessel to meet exigencies,” he said. “Placing an asset on the coast is something new to the administration. In course of time we will get the feel of this operation. We are an administration and not ship owners. Whatever be the cost that is incurred in the process of towing will be charged to the ship owners.”

Source: Maritime Professional. By Joseph Fonseca. 12 July 2011

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