04 July 2011

A mixed farewell to MV Wisdom:

Around 80 maritime personnel and three tugs removed the 9,000 tonne-heavy ship from the beach at 1.11 pm on Saturday
Lifeguards and policemen heaved a sigh of relief as cargo ship MV Wisdom finally sailed away from Juhu beach; others like chaat stall owners and photographers weren't too happy to see it go

AN hour-long operation on Saturday finally succeeded in removing the MV Wisdom from Juhu beach, nearly a month after it had run aground after breaking away from a tow ship that was lugging it to Gujarat's ship breaking yard on June 12.

Nearly 80 maritime personnel and three tugs were required to remove the 9,000 tonne-heavy ship from the beach at 1.11 pm on Saturday.

Juhu residents and policemen stationed at the beach heaved a sigh of relief to see the ship on its way out, as lakhs of visitors thronged the beach daily to get a glimpse of the ship, causing traffic jams on Juhu Tara road, and leaving a trail of litter on the beach.

"We had a staff of up to 40 policemen, including seven officers from different units, posted on the beach daily to maintain security. The ship kept us on our toes as visitors kept pouring in for a glimpse of the ship.

The chaos was intensified as children and adults refused to pay heed to warnings from lifeguards and swam deep into the sea to touch the ship," said Sub Inspector Firoze Phathan, in charge of Juhu beach police station.

Neville David, president of the Juhu Beach Lifeguard Association said 37 people who had ventured in to deep waters to get a closer look at the vessel, were rescued.

Three persons had died after being swept away by strong undercurrents and choppy waters near the ship. "It was a crazy task for our staff to control so many people, who were adamant to venture into the waters, even when the tides were choppy and dangerous," said David.

Harish Tiwari, head lifeguard, said a couple had to be pulled out on Friday evening, as they walked too close to the vessel during low tide, but got caught in a strong undercurrent.

Lifeguards had to rescue a total of 37 people venturing too deep into the water.
Pic/ Shailesh Bhatia
"People argued with us for silly reasons. An elderly lady, whose children had entered deeper waters, strongly objected when I referred to her as 'Ma', as if I had insulted her youth and vanity," laughs Tiwari.

However, not all were happy to see Wisdom chug out of the beach. Street food stall owners and photographers had made a tidy sum from tourists and visitors in the last three weeks.

Vikas Kadam, secretary of Juhu Eateries Association said stall owners had never seen so many visitors on the beach before.

"On an average, about five lakh visitors visit the beach during Ganpati Visargan, but three times that number turned up to see MV Wisdom. Each of the 80 stall owners did roaring business.

A vendor, who would make an average of Rs 10,000 a day, carried home at least Rs 30,000 daily. So for us, Wisdom's sailing away is bad news," said Kadam.

Ram Saha, a photographer who has clicked photographs of tourists visiting Juhu beach for 25 years, said the monsoon is usually a lean period for business but the MV Wisdom made sure his financial needs were met.

"At times I would barely make Rs 50 a day, but in the last couple of weeks, I was able to make 10 times that sum. I will now return to my hometown in Nepal for a while, as business is sure to plunge after this," said Saha.

How the ship was removed:

The vessel, which was purchased by a consortium of Indian shipbreakers in Singapore, hired the services of Smit, a 175 year-old international maritime company with offices in Porbandar, Gujarat and Mumbai, for the salvage operation.

After two failed attempts to dislodge the vessel, helicopters had been dropping ropes and other salvage equipment on MV Wisdom for the last couple of days in order to make good use of the high tide on Saturday.

Starting early on Saturday, a team of 30 men employed by GR Engineers, pumped out 500 tonnes of water ingress from the ship's tanks and pumped in compressed air for nearly two hours, to enhance buoyancy of the ship.

Heavy machinery was used to loosen the sand in and around Wisdom Three tugs, hired from a Porbandar-based Vishavakarma Shipping, were put in to action at noon and at 1.11 pm, they managed to pull the vessel into deeper waters.

According to a senior level source in the Directorate General Shipping, the vessel will be kept in the outer waters to the north west of Juhu beach, till the time all the clearances from the coast guard and the government maritime institutions are obtained. It will then be tugged to Alang in Gujarat.

"The major hurdle has been crossed, as no one wanted the vessel to be stranded for another day on the beach," the source added.

Source: Mid Day. By: Shailesh Bhatia. 3 July 2011.

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