Camera to catch erring captains?

N. K. Kurup | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on March 20, 2011

The stricken ‘MSC Chitra’ (file picture). On Saturday, the wreck, lyingin the harbour waters for the last six months, was finally towed out.   -  PTI

The maritime administration wants an independent system to track and monitor the vessel movements at the harbour, like the air traffic control system.

A camera to catch erring ship captains — that's what the country's maritime administration is planning for the Mumbai harbour, where incidents of ship collision have lately been on the rise. The administration seems to have taken a leaf out of the road traffic cops' books. A top official said: “We want to send a message to the captains and pilots of ships that they will be caught if they break the traffic rules.”

Preliminary investigations into the recent ship collisions in the Mumbai harbour have revealed that they were caused mainly by “human error.” “We have to take some precautionary measurers,” said the official, explaining: “It is like this; if a motorist on the highways knows there are cameras along the way, he will not speed up or overtake where it is not allowed.”

What is actually being planned is an independent vessel monitoring system to track the movement of ships in the main navigation channels of the Mumbai and the Jawaharlal Nehru ports. This would be separate from the vessel traffic management system now jointly run by the two ports.

Mumbai harbour witnessed two major ship collisions in the recent past. The first one took place on August 7, 2010 in the common navigation channel. A container ship MSC Chitra, which was coming out of the JN Port, was hit by the break-bulk carrier MV Khalijia III, as it was proceeding to berth at Mumbai port. Following the collision MSC Chitra tilted and the loaded containers fell off the ship into the water, blocking vessel traffic in the main channel. This apart, the slick caused by leaking oil affected many of the surrounding areas.

In the second incident, on January 30 this year, an Indian naval ship INS Vindhaygiri sank after it collided with a Cyprus-flagged container ship MV Nordlake. According to initial reports, following the collision, the warship caught fire, which raged till the next day. By the time the fire was doused, the ship got flooded and started sinking. Defence analysts said it was one of biggest peace-time losses for the Indian Navy.

Fortunately, there was no loss of life, though there were several people on board, including members of the sailors' families who were out on a “day-at-sea” programme.

Traffic management

A crucial issue here is that both accidents took place in broad daylight: One at 10 in the morning and the other at 4.30 in the evening. In both cases, officials believe, it was human error that led to the accident.

Capt P.V.K. Mohan, who headed the panel that studied the enquiry report on the collision between MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia III, said human error was one of the reasons for the mishap. The committee had recommended suspension of certificate of competence of the masters of the ships involved in the collision.

It had also recommended setting up of a vessel traffic system authority to provide pilotage services over the entire stretch of the main channel.

Ships coming to Mumbai and the JN Port terminals use a common navigation channel, before entering the respective port's approach channels. Their movement is controlled by a vessel traffic management system equipped with high frequency electronic communication facilities. The VTMS is run jointly by Mumbai and JN ports.

It appears that the maritime administration wants an independent system to track and monitor the vessel movements at the harbour, like the air traffic control system at airports. A good idea! A better thing for the government is to take over the existing vessel traffic management system and run it independently without incurring any additional investments.

‘MSC Chitra' goes to Alang

The Mumbai Port officials heaved a sigh of relief two days ago, on Saturday, as the wreck of the MSC Chitra, which was lying in the harbour waters for the last seven months, was finally towed out. The ill-fated vessel is now on its way to the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat.

Removing the wreck, a navigational hazard at the harbour, was not an easy task, said a port official. Two of the mooring lines were broken off due to strong undercurrents when it was pulled out of the harbour by tugs, causing anxious moments, the official said.

It is feared that the ship still has containers with hazardous materials on board. Most of the nearly 300 containers that fell off the ship when it collided with the bulk carrier M.V. Khalijia III were recovered by salvage experts.

These containers were loaded with cargoes including caustic soda, pesticides and other chemicals. Shipping experts say that there could be damaged containers with cargoes still on board. They believe that the vessel could have toxic gases formed by chemicals mixed with water on board. Earlier reports indicated that lifting containers out of the ship was difficult because of toxic gases.

However, Mr Satish Agnihotri, Director-General of Shipping, said the owners of the vessel had assured that the ship would be free of hazardous chemicals on board, before it was moved out.

All precautionary measures were taken to ensure safety, he said. The Mediterranean Shipping Company, the owners of the ship, have found a buyer for the ship, said Capt Deepak Tiwari, CEO, MSC Agencies India, the shipping line's Indian outfit.

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Published on March 20, 2011
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