Ministry keen to have emergency towing vessels before monsoon

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on April 13, 2011

Gearing up: A file photo of a tug demonstrating at a National Maritime day celebration

The Shipping Ministry plans to have two-to-three emergency towing vessels (ETV) to improve the response time in case of marine disasters such as oil spills. These vessels could become available before June.

An emergency tow vessel (ETV) is a multi-purpose vessel used to tow disabled vessels on high seas to prevent damage to environment and people.

“We propose to have the ETVs at our disposal before the monsoon sets in,” Mr K Mohandas, Secretary, Shipping Ministry, told Business Line. “We propose to make them available by entering into a wet lease kind of an agreement with service providers,” Mr Mohandas said. This will ensure that the vessel and the crew to man the vessel will be available on demand.

The Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) is likely to be asked to select the firm through a bidding process for the Directorate General, Shipping.

“Operating ETVs require skilled manpower. We cannot procure vessels and start training people when the disaster strikes. So, we could start by having two-three ETVs, which can also be scaled up in the future based on requirement,” Mr S.B. Agnihotri, DG Shipping, told Business Line.


The need to have ETVs has been flagged earlier by Shipping Ministry, Planning Commission and Indian Coast Guard. The Ministry, in its Maritime Agenda 2010-20, has proposed to have a disaster prevention plan on the model of other maritime countries. “Minimally, this would require the availability of at least two 100-tonne bollard pull tugs on each coast; the basic equipment for tow and decanting of bunker oil from tanks of ships in distress; and a team of salvagers who will be available at short notice,” the Ministry stated in its agenda. It proposed to purchase the ETVs, basic equipment; and inviting salvage companies to set up shop in India. The fund requirement for the procurement and operation of the ETVs was estimated to be Rs 250 crore, it added.

The XI Five Year Plan Working Group on Shipping had stated that there is an urgent need to have at least four ETVs of about 80-tonne bollard pull deployed on both the coasts. The Indian Coast Guard had also asked DG Shipping to take steps for ETVs in its meeting on national oil spill disaster recovery plan (2009).

Usually, it is the responsibility of the ship owners to fund such salvage activities through insurance firms. But, there have been cases when the owners have not taken such responsibility. In September 2009, when a Mongolian vessel Black Rose, carrying iron ore sank near Paradip Port; the Paradip Port Trust (PPT) had prevented spilling of 975-tonne fuel. Through an international tender, the PPT entrusted the job of removing the fuel from the sunken ship, to US-based Resolve Marine Group, at a cost of Rs 17.55 crore.

> mamuni@thehindu.co.in

Published on April 13, 2011

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