WORLDWIDE Resorts and Entertainment Private Limited, the owner of the casino vessel MV Lucky Seven, have requisitioned the services of a Dubai-based salvaging firm to remove the vessel that has been lying grounded off Miramar beach for one and half months. The services of a nine-member team of salvage experts has been sought to assess the condition of the vessel. The team will give its opinion on whether the vessel is strong enough to be refloated and towed away to Jaigad. If the experts decide that the vessel cannot be refloated it might have to be dismantled at the site, which could have disastrous effects on the state of environment, ecology and tourism, as the Miramar beach is a prime tourist destination. The salvage firm appears to have a major task at hand as the vessel’s engine room, located below the main deck and below the water line, is filled with seawater. The salvagers will have to make herculean efforts to pump out water and seal the cracks in the bed of the vessel.
The immediate plan in the salvage operations is to move the vessel at least two metres away from the beach into deeper waters so as to make it afloat. As the experts have opined that the salvage operation must be carried out as soon as possible to avoid environmental damage and escalating costs, the owner of the vessel has to ensure that the operations begin without further delay. The owner must also avoid the possibility of dismantling of the vessel at the site as any such attempt would cause serious health and environmental hazards and will have far-reaching consequences for the marine life and the popular beach. With the condition of the vessel deteriorating over the last one and half months since it was grounded the experts are of the opinion that the best time to salvage it in one piece and at a reasonable cost is now. They feel that if the salvage operation is delayed for a longer period, there is possibility of not only costs escalating significantly but also oil on its board seeping out. Any such eventuality would cause environmental hazards as well cost crores of rupees to clean the sand. With the weather returning to almost normal now the salvage operations should begin straightaway.
The Goa bench of the Bombay High Court has taken a serious view of the matter and directed Worldwide Resorts and Entertainment Pvt Ltd to remove the vessel and pay for the damages, if any, to the concerned party. Despite the fact that the ship has not only sunk but is also tilting on one side, Gopal Kanda, the promoter of Worldwide Resorts and Entertainment has chosen to blame the media for blowing the issue of his vessel out of proportions. It appears that Kanda does not want the media to put the ground situation in the public domain. Rather than blaming the media he should have acted forthrightly in making the Goans aware, through advertisements or public statements, of the plans suggested by experts for removing the vessel. It is not the media or the state government that are responsible for the situation. It is crisis of his own making as he chose to ignore the advice of the competent authorities, including that the Mormugao Port Trust and Captain of Ports, not to move the vessel from the Mormugao port to the Verem bay and that too without taking proper care to prevent any eventuality. Besides, the vessel had presented no certificate of being seaworthy. Kanda is responsible therefore for creating an environment hazard and visual nuisance on the Miramar beach.
As the situation is of Kanda’s own making, the state authorities should make sure that he not only removes the vessel but also prevents any damage to beach, marine life, environment and ecology. As Kanda had disobeyed the government, exemplary action should be taken against him for the negligence. The state should recover the costs for damages from him. The state government should designate a department to deal with the situations arising out of such eventualities in the future in order to minimise the adverse effects till the owners step in and take care of the grounded vessel. Such arrangements will help in taking preemptive steps without delays. There is possibility that the owner of Lucky Seven might put the 35-year-old vessel after repair into operation. The government should make sure that only a vessel that is seaworthy and stable and only companies that follow the advice and rules of the state government are allowed to operate.