The oil spill off the Mumbai coast caused by the collision of two freighters is under control but salvage operations off the Mumbai coast are expected to last a month, Maharashtra environment minister Suresh Shetty told journalists on Monday.
A team of experts from Singapore arrived in Mumbai on Monday to assist in the operations, which are being primarily conducted by the Singapore-based company Smit Salvage. Owing to monsoon weather, the work is expected to effectively start by the end of this month.
''Only two tanks of the vessel [MSC Chitra] have been reported to be damaged,'' the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) said. Shetty said the challenge before the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) was clearing the waters of containers which had sunk or were afloat. ''The containers would be shifted to a reserved area at the JNPT,'' he said.
Maharashtra minister for ports and Transport Radhakrishna Vikhe Patel had said earlier it would take five more days for normalisation of channel operations.
Making a statement in Parliament, environment minister Jairam Ramesh said normal traffic would be restored at the harbour by 15 August, but it would take at least 45 days to clean up the mess.
While the ICG announced that containers of hazardous material were unaffected, there is no confirmation if any of the chemicals had leaked out into the sea.
Shetty said 31 containers carried sodium hydroxide and organophosphorus pesticides, among other hazardous material. He said if the spread of oil reached the coast or the mangroves, the administration would have to take measures to physically clean it in a time-bound manner.
''The oil spill is a potential threat to marine environment in view of its chemical characteristics. However, as of now, the situation is under control,'' a defence press note said. Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan on Monday issued directions to the tehsildars of coastal areas to collect water samples to detect the extent of the oil slick.