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Handling Naphtha Safely

Transfer hazardous substance under guidance of experts

The state government had promised to start the process for removal of naphtha from MV Nu Shi Nalini, which ran aground near Dona Paula, more than a week ago. The authorities still appear to be clueless when the process would begin. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has now said that experts from Directorate General of Shipping and Union Shipping Ministry will arrive in the state to take stock of the situation and decide on how to unload the hazardous substance. The government does not want any problematic situation to arise while naphtha was unloaded from the vessel and as such has sought help of a team of experts from both DG Shipping and the Union Shipping Ministry and perhaps oversee the process of transfer of the hazardous substance. Perhaps the state authorities did not realize that it was an arduous task to deal with handling of naphtha. They went on making one promise after another which many believe was to “mislead” people and contain their anger.

Ever since the incident took place on October 25, the approach of the state authorities has been casual. It appears that the state authorities have not learnt lesson from similar past instances. Goans were promised that River Princess, which had run aground at Candolim in 2000, would be removed in matters of weeks but it continued to be at its resting place for more than 12 years. A couple of years ago a casino vessel, Lucky Seven, also met similar fate at Miramar beach and lay there for months before it was towed away. Interestingly, the Mormugao Port Trust authorities allowed the ill-fated vessel to be brought into its area despite the fact that it did not have requisite documents and its content was suspicious. It is necessary that whole episode leading to the incident be thoroughly investigated and those responsible for creating fears among Goans be brought to book. Will the state authorities take the cases booked against the owners of the vessel to logical end?

The state had paid close to Rs 100 crore for the removal of River Princess, which was a time consuming process. This time around the authorities should ensure that the state does not have to invest in salvaging the situation and the vessel. The owners of the vessel and if need be MPT should be made to pay the removal of the content and vessel from Goan waters. The government should ensure that not only was naphtha removed expeditiously but also the vessel from its perch. As the vessel is reported to have been sitting on a rock there is possibility of it breaking, if it remains there for too long. Such a situation should be avoided at all costs as it could lead to irreparable damage to ecology and environment as also the tourism in the state. If the owners of the vessel and others connected fail to pay up for removal of the hazardous substance and the vessel, the government should attach the tanker and sell it through auction to recover the expenses involved in the process.

It was well known that none of the agencies in the state, including Mormugao Port Trust, has the expertise to unload hazardous substance in cases of emergencies. Despite shortcomings, the government thought it wise to make promises first and seek help of experts later. It is surprising to note that despite two similar situations in the past no efforts have been made to put a system in place to deal with such exigencies. Interestingly, Goans were told by the authorities that the content of the vessel would be transferred to another vessel, which was brought to the state after some days of the naphtha- laden tanker ran aground. The process could not begin as none in the state had the expertise to deal with the situation. Surprisingly, it was only after apprehensions were expressed about safe handling of naphtha that help has been sought from experts. The authorities should now ensure that the whole process was carried out under their guidance and prevent any incidence.

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