Logistics

Panel finds 4 offcials guilty for July chlorine gas leak at Mumbai port

N. K. Kurup Mumbai | Updated on February 22, 2011 Published on February 22, 2011

Fireman sprays water on a pile of cylinders after chlorine gas leaked at a port area in Mumbai on July 14, 2010. One hundred and eighteen people, including four firemen and a police constable, were hospitalised after they inhaled chlorine gas that leaked from a cylinder in a Mumbai Port Trust godown in Sewri. (file photo): Vivek Bendre   -  Business Line

The board of trustees of the Mumbai port will have a rather delicate matter to deal with when it meets this Friday.

One of the key items on the agenda is “action to be taken against” officials held responsible for the chlorine gas-leak at the port last year that affected more than 100 people.

The three-member committee, headed by the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, that probed the gas leak, held four officials of Mumbai port, among others, guilty of leaving the gas cylinder unattended for a long time.

Of the four, two are senior officials — the Deputy Conservator of the port and the Traffic Manager.

The other two are the Assistant Manger in-charge of the warehouse that stored the chlorine cylinders and a junior safety officer.

Mishap

The mishap had occurred early morning of July 14 last year, when chlorine gas started leaking from cylinders which were lying in Mumbai port's warehouse for hazardous goods .

These cylinders were reportedly lying unclaimed for more than ten years.

Ironically, two of the four officers found guilty are no longer with the port; the assistant manager in-charge of the warehouse had retired three year ago and the deputy conservator left the port last December. And the traffic manager is due for retirement next month.

Interestingly, the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, who headed the investigation committee, is also a trustee on the board of Mumbai port. He would also be a party to the implementation of the committee's recommendations.

Panel's recommendations

The committee has also found the Joint Chief Controller of Explosives and four senior customs officials responsible for the tragedy. It is not known whether any action has been taken against these officers.

The committee has also recommended action against the importer of the cargo (chlorine gas), Agro Gases, and the shipping agent, James Mackintosh.

Besides criminal proceedings against them, the committee suggested denial of import/export facilities to these firms for five years till 2016.

The nature of the action or the punishment to be taken against the port officials is left to the port management, said a port official.

safety issues

Of late, Mumbai port has been getting a lot of flak for incidents involving safety at the port.

In the past six months alone, there were two collisions of ships at the Mumbai harbour; both had happened in the broad daylight.

The wreck lying at the harbour following the collision of merchant ships MSC Chitra and Khalija in August 2010 is yet to be removed.

In the other case, a warship of Indian Navy sunk after it was hit by a cargo carrier.

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Published on February 22, 2011
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