The state government has held the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) responsible for the drifting of the unmanned tanker carrying nearly 3,000 metric tonne of naphtha and the danger it poses to the residents at the Marivel beach near Raj Bhavan.
“I have issued necessary instruction to file a case against MPT and also the captain of the vessel. I have ordered magisterial detention of the captain,” Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said while briefing pressmen after chairing a high-level meeting which also attended by Minister for Ports Michael Lobo at his official residence in Altinho-Panaji.
The tanker got drifted from MPT, Vasco due to the cyclonic winds and heavy rain and is currently stuck just 800 metres away from the shore off Marivel beach and lies approximately 2.5 kilometre away from Raj Bhavan in Dona Paula after it hit rocks.
Sawant said that a private firm has been roped in so as to ascertain whether there was any spillage from the tanker.
“Another vessel is being brought by the owner of the tanker from Mumbai and it will be here on October 27, using that the naphtha would be transferred from the drifting tanker,” he said appealing to local residents not to panic as the government was taking all measures to prevent possible disaster.
Sawant said that a team has been constituted under Secretary Revenue which also includes North Goa Collector and officials of the Captain of Ports to closely monitor the movement of the ship.
North Goa collector R Menaka also said that it would conduct “root cause” investigations to determine how such an incident occurred and how MPT could have prevented the incident from happening in the first place.
Investigation will be carried out soon after the vessel is salvaged and the naphtha unloaded into another vessel.
“We will examine the role of each agency and where they failed and make recommendations to the government regulators and other stakeholders on how to prevent recurrence of such incident. Presently our priority is to safely remove the vessel and the combustible chemical it carries before it causes any damage,” the collector said.
Stating that there was negligence and gross violation of the norms by MPT, Minister for Ports Michael Lobo on Friday said that there is a risk of the unmanned tanker carrying naphtha exploding if the chemical is directly exposed to oxygen.
“We are taking expert opinion and one of the experts has said that there could be a disaster if it explodes. And the explosion will take place if naphtha is directly exposed to oxygen,” he said while interacting with media persons in Panaji.
During the high-level meeting which was chaired by Chief Minister, Lobo pointed out that ‘The Navhind Times’ had first published report on July 20, 2019, when this particular tanker had entered the Goan waters with naphtha, a flammable liquid.
Lobo told the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant that he in his capacity as Minister of Ports had opposed the entry of the said taker, however, his views were not considered by the MPT officials. A cutting of the news story that appeared on ‘The Navhind Times’ was provided to the Chief Minister.
“I had warned the state administration when the news came out but Captain of Ports told me that it was in the jurisdiction of MPT and MPT was bringing it with the permission of the Directorate General of Shipping. We ignored, I feel that we should have gone ahead and intervened at that particular time and compelled MPT not to allow the tanker to anchor in our waters,” Lobo said.
The Minister for Ports revealed that the tanker was brought using a tug boat from Kerala as its engine was not working, adding that he questioned as to how MPT officials can allow such vessel to enter in their jurisdiction.
“I have requested the Chief Minister to write to the Union Shipping Minister to initiate action against MPT for doing this kind of thing and putting Goans at risk,” he said.
He further said that the sea is currently rough due to cyclonic winds adding that if the sea is calm by Saturday then first oil and diesel will be pumped out as one of the precautionary measures before touching the naphtha tank on the tanker.
“The ship coming from Mumbai will be anchored little far from tanker to transfer naphtha, it requires heavy pumps to pull it from the tanks. We will require a specialised dedicated team to remove naphtha and the entire operation will take 7-15 days. The damage to the ship will come to know by Saturday evening. There should not be any damage to the tank of the naphtha or else it will be a big disaster,” Lobo said.