Posted 11 August 2011, by Simit Bhagat,, The Times of In dia (Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd), timesofindia.indiatimes.com
MUMBAI: The recent MV Rak Carrier and MT Pavit fiascos are just the tip of the iceberg . As many as 42 other vessels have sunk or run aground off the country’s western coast during the monsoon months since 2006, hurting the region’s ecology and, in cases, endangering its security.
Shipping experts explain that it is difficult for vessels to navigate during the rainy season when the currents and tides are strong and the winds heavy. In such tough conditions, a technical problem mid-sea means ships can do little.
“The monsoon is the most difficult period to manoeuvre a ship. On top of this, if a technical problem crops up, it is bound to drift in the direction where the wind or tide takes it,” said Manohar Nambiar, defence spokesman . “Due to the southwest monsoon, the ships naturally end up travelling towards the western coast.”
Still, the mishaps have disastrous consequences for the coastal ecology, as the oil spill from MV Rak Carrier is all too plainly displaying. The paint on the ships is laden with heavy metal compounds , which can enter the food chain through fish and molluscs. “If the vessel stays under water for long, it starts to corrode. There is also a threat of oil getting mixed with the sea water and affecting it. These shipwrecks, therefore, have a huge impact on fisheries and marine life,” said Rahul Chowhan, an activist with Mangrove Society of India’s Mumbai chapter. Salvaging costly, so vessels left behind in sea
Besides this, in the long run, grounded vessels erode the seabed. “The ship River Princess that is beached at Candolim in Goa is a classic example of the damage that grounded ships cause to the marine ecology . They change the wave patterns , causing erosion. We have observed that the size of the Goa beach has reduced due to sand erosion ,” said Dayanand Stalin, project director of NGO Vanashakti. Stalin also cited the example of African nations like Nigeria, where many “sandy beaches have disappeared” because of grounded vessels.
Since 2005, at least 23 ships have sunk off the country’s western coast. Among them are ships that went under near Prongs ReefLight House, Worli , Harnai near Murud Fort, off Shrivardhan beach in Raigad district and Magdalla Port in Gujarat. Experts say that in most cases the cost of salvaging a sunken ship is more than its scrap value, so the ships are never recovered. “However , authorities inform mariners about the ship wreckage and buoys are kept to mark the site to ensure that the other ships stay clear of the location,” said Nambiar.