Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Poisonous Gas And Lost Cargo Continue To Haunt Wrecked Container Ship

MSC Vessel Still Causing Problems for Mumbai
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – The woeful saga of the MSC Chitra, which we first reported back in August, continues despite efforts to recover the containers lost overboard when she was struck by the MV Khalizia –lll in an accident which has so far reportedly cost her owners, Mediterranean Shipping (MSC), over $20 million to clean up, despite the fact it appears the Khalizia –lll was apparently at fault as she manoeuvred toward her berth at Mumbai.

Initially the containers posed a significant risk to shipping as they wallowed, sub surface, across the main shipping lanes causing the facilities at Mumbai and Jawaharlal to close for some time. Now the threat is more insidious as local press state up to 189, 20’ and 40’ boxes are still missing, eight containing toxic cargoes including organic pesticides and noxious chemicals. Three hundred containers were originally lost from the vessel.

MSC stated after the accident that up to eight sonar teams were employed at any one time to locate the missing containers, meanwhile the ship continues to be unsafe due to noxious gas, believed to be phosphine, being present in dangerous quantities within the hull spaces. Phosphine has been popular as a fumigant since Methyl Bromide was banned and will be familiar to readers who have to fumigate cargoes. It is corrosive and also has the potential to cause explosions if confined with a liability to self ignite.

The accident has caused pollution emanating from both vessels with oil from the 3,300 tonnes carried by the Chitra and also from the Khalizia –lll pouring into the sea, the Indian Minister of Shipping visited the site last month to ensure all possible actions were being taken to minimize and clean up the pollutants.

In response to our enquiries MSC have given the following statement to the Handy Shipping Guide today:

“Further to our statement of 10th August , MSC is the unfortunate victim in this very serious collision which has had severe consequences for our clients, for all concerned for the port of Mumbai and its surrounds and for MSC.

“Although clearly not responsible for the incident, MSC continues to do everything necessary to clean up the problems caused by the collision including salvage of cargo and the vessel, pollution cleanup and clearing navigation channels, and our costs already exceed US$20 million, which figure does not include the loss of the vessel and cargo.

“Conditions at the vessel caused by the monsoon and a toxic gas problem from cargo are slowing progress at the vessel. We should add that the manufacturers of the cargo giving off the toxic gas are giving us all the assistance they can.

“We also face delays and extra costs from Indian government procedures, which are not adapted for special circumstances such as this. MSC is not responsible for what happened, but we are doing everything to rectify the situation.”