21 August 2011

Pavit lesson for navy patrol:

Mumbai, Aug. 20: The chief of naval staff, Admiral Nirmal Verma, today admitted that the beaching of the merchant vessel MT Pavit in Mumbai’s Juhu seafront earlier this month was an “aberration” after which the navy had intensified its patrolling off the west coast.

As a result of such patrolling, the navy had identified a ship on Friday-Saturday night that was drifting towards India. The navy chief said that an operation — probably a Vessel, Board, Search and Seizure (in which naval commandos embark on a suspect ship) — was currently on. The operation was being carried out roughly 225 nautical miles west of Mumbai.

The Pavit, a 1,000-tonne cargo vessel, had drifted from near Oman across the Arabian Sea and entered Indian waters before finally getting grounded in Mumbai, almost undetected through three tiers of India’s coastal security grid.

It made a mockery of the reinforced measures that the Centre and the navy claimed had been put in place since the 26/11 terror strikes.

“The way it panned out — the MT Pavit — a ship that drifted for about a month, the fact that it happened is an aberration,” Admiral Verma said. “Since it moved with the (monsoon) current, we are tracing the pattern. It was moving at a very slow speed,” he said, indicating that radars of the navy and the coastguard may not have picked up the vessel because it was not sailing fast enough to raise an alarm.

In the kind of threat scenario that India’s coast security managers — at the helm of which is the navy — operate, an adrift vessel could potentially be carrying hazardous chemicals, explosives or terrorists.

“There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from it (the beaching of the Pavit),” Admiral Verma said, “and I do not see it (such an incident) happening again the way it did.”

He said the patrolling patterns of the navy had been intensified and the coastguard and marine police were also being pushed to co-ordinate more closely. Admiral Verma said the navy was relying heavily on fishermen to function as its “eyes and ears”.

Since the Pavit incident, personnel on board the navy’s destroyer, the INS Mysore, boarded an adrift vessel last week, MV Nafis. Its boarding party found that the vessel’s engine was disabled and it had a thirsty and hungry crew.

The boarding party found small arms in the ship. The small vessel was towed to Indian waters and then on to Porbandar in Gujarat.

India’s claims that it had tightened coastal security since 26/11 were severely tested in three successive incidents over the last two months in or off Mumbai.

First, a 10,000-tonne cargo vessel, MV Wisdom, got grounded. Admiral Verma said the Wisdom’s passage was authorised and it was being towed to the shipbreaking yards in Alang, Gujarat. But the tow rope broke and the Wisdom drifted towards Mumbai and large amounts of oil spilled from it.

In the second incident, the navy was still investigating the cause for the ship sinking in the outer anchorage of Mumbai harbour. The navy’s own INS Vindhyagiri had gone down after colliding with MV Nordlink.

The Vindhyagiri has since been salvaged and was this afternoon seen berthed in the naval dockyard.

The Pavit was the third incident. Its owners had reported it was missing and possibly sunk.

Source: The Telegraph India. By Shjan Dutta. 21 August 2011

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