ICG averts Ecological Disaster in Gulf of Kutchh
A major fire was reported onboard Indian Motor Tanker MT Genessa anchored off Dindayal Port, Kandla on January 17, 2018. The vessel had a stock of about 34,000 metric tonnes of High Speed Diesel (HSD) and 880 metric tonnes of Fuel Oil (FO) potent enough to disbalance the eco environment in Gulf of Kutch. Reacting prudently in tandem with support agencies, an Indian Coast Guard vessel C-403 based at Mundra was positioned to assume on-scene responsibilities. She had a major responsibility of resourcing and guiding the stakeholders tugs for a streamlined fire dousing operation and boundary cooling.
All 26 crew onboard the vessel were rescued immediately with coordinated efforts by the Dindayal Port Trust tugs. Incidentally two of the crew were recovered critical out of which one person Mr Edwin Fernando later succumbed to the burn injuries.
With the concerted efforts of resource and oil handling agencies like BORL, ESSAR, Reliance, Dindayal Port Trust, IOCL and Adani in coordination with Indian Coast Guard throughout the night, the fire was kept under control. Coast Guard Dornier and Chetak aircrafts were also tasked to overview the scene of action and to communicate the extent of threat with their instant aerial update.
Preparations were concurrently initiated to contain the likely spillage of oil away from the ship's vicinity. In quick time an adequate amount of oil spill dispersant and more than 2000 meters of oil containing boom was positioned at the site to obviate an oil pollution spillage. The Indian Coast Guard, incidentally, is also the Central Coordinating Authority in the country to respond to marine pollution threat. The responders were joined by the Indian Coast Guard Pollution Response Vessel Samudra Pavak equipped to combat fire using its External Fire Fighting Guns, in addition to provision about 650 mtrs long sea boom, to analyse oil samples found in the vicinity. ICGS Arinjay based at Okha and Interceptor Boat C-152 were tasked from Vadinar to collect water samples and augment the workforce in the ongoing operation. Further, Coast Guard Pollution Control Vessel Samudra Prahri from Mumbai adequately stocked up, was directed towards the scene of operation for augmenting the fire fighting and pollution response operation. The remote station of the Coast Guard Regional and District HQs at Gandhinagar and Porbandar were concurrently monitoring the situation all the while.
Coast Guard Regional Commander IG Rakesh Pal TM spearheading the operation ensured the apex level involvement in the near developing threat scenario. Addl DG K Natarajan PTM TM Commander Western Seaboard too was on the scene to oversee the operations.
The fire was doused successfully by the evening on January 19, 2018. Operation to cool the hot spots however continued, keeping a close watch to preclude any damage on account of a likely spillage. The vessel was finally boarded for damage assessment on January 20, 2018.
Overall, It was a well coordinated joint operation wherein the fire fighting and pollution response preparedness of crew and professional skills were effectively put to use. The Indian Coast Guard, earlier in December 2016 had conducted NATPOLREX-VI (National Pollution Response Exercise) in the Gulf of Kutchh off Mundra port in coordination with all stake holders. The SOPs formulated and synergy achieved in the exercise seems to have borne great results in this actual threat scenario, validating the maxim "the more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war".
- Wg Cdr Abhishek Matiman