Logistics

India looks to consolidate oil-spill handling equipment at ports

New Delhi | Updated on October 18, 2019 Published on October 18, 2019

A file picture of Coast Guard Ship Samudra Prahari at work to control the oil spill at Marmugoa   -  Ministry of Defence

Move will ensure better upkeep of gear scattered across ports

India is bolstering its readiness to handle potential oil spill disasters along its 7,500-km coastline. It wants to consolidate its oil spill handling equipment at a few major centres for better upkeep. At present, the equipment lie scattered across 12 major ports and some of the 44 functional non-major ports and are often unutilised.

At present, almost all major ports and some non-major ports have bought oil spill response equipment and trained their staff to deal with emergencies that arise from oil spills. However, as this is a non-core area for ports, the equipment are not being effectively utilised and are piling up at ports, according to shipping industry sources.

India has 12 major ports (including the Haldia Dock Complex) and over 200 non-major ports of which 44 are functional. The major ports alone handle over 7,000 oil tankers a year.

Different risks

“Given that each port has different risks of oil spill, the extent of oil spill could be assessed and full scale oil response facility may be provided at regional response centres involving two-three coastal states and ports in their regions,” feels a Shipping Ministry official.

At present, the Indian Coast Guard is responsible for handling oil spills outside port areas. The Coast Guard has oil spill handling equipment at its regional headquarters at Mumbai (Western region), Chennai (Eastern region), and Kolkata (North Eastern region).

Ports and oil handling companies are required to deal with oil emergencies in their jurisdiction with Tier-1 facilities, which are basic equipment needed to counter smaller oil spills that could happen during normal course of handling ships. “Such tier-1 facilities may be consolidated at select regional centers, a move which will also allow use of the equipment in non-major ports,” according to officials.

Risk assessment

Ports have different risk assessment based on what they handle – those that handle tankers, those that handle ships carrying products or those that carry over 1,000 tonnes of bunker or fuel oil. India is the world’s third largest fuel consumer, and the Indian Ocean is one of the major sea-based trade lanes for tankers. Equipment to control oil spill include inflatable boom, skimmers to maintain various types of oil handled and barges, among others.

India had witnessed oil spill at Kamarajar Port in 2017, when an Indian oil tanker collided with British LPG tanker. Globally, there have been reports of oil spills where container ships have leaked — Hapag Lloyd in the US and Grande America near France. BP’s oil spill (2010) in Gulf of Mexico was another oilspill that took months to curtail.

The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd (ITOPF), a not-for-profit organisation, whose members include tanker owners, insurance firms, points out that spills from tankers have progressively lowered over the years globally. The number of relatively smaller scale spills — greater than seven tonnes in size — has continuously reduced and, since 2010, averages around seven per year. Number of large spills — greater than 700 tonnes — has also lowered. The yearly average, which was around 25 in the 1970s has reduced dramatically to less than 2 since 2010, according to ITOPF.

Published on October 18, 2019
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