The ship became a tourist attraction and a wedding photography destination, but high waves caused by it began eating into the shore, sparking fears.

Dredger that washed ashore years ago in Kollam is finally being dismantled
news Coast Friday, January 26, 2018 - 17:56

In the last five years, a dredger named ‘Hansita’ meant different things for different people in Kollam.

First, the ship – owned by a Mumbai-based company, Megha Dredging Private Limited – was brought to the Kollam in 2013 for repair. However, following a legal tussle, the ship lay anchored in the sea.

Then, in 2016, it got washed ashore near Mundakkal beach.

The unusual sight of a dredger on the beach drew hundreds of tourists to the spot. In fact, it even became a much sought-after ‘destination’ for wedding photography. But this novelty soon gave way to panic and distress after the high tide induced by the ship began to gnaw away at the shore.

Now, over a year after Hansita was washed ashore, the dredger will finally be dismantled thanks to protests led by locals.

A Kannur-based company is in the process of dismantling the ship, by employing staff from Alang in Gujarat, known for being the biggest ship wrecking yard in the world. Representatives from the company told the media that it is expected to take at least 4 months to complete the work.

Hansita's story

Hansita's story dates back to March 2013, when the ship was sailing towards Karwar. It developed a technical snag and was brought to Kollam Port for repairs. But the ship was not released, since the company failed to pay the port charges of Rs 40 lakh. 

Hansita was kept at Kollam Port for several months, before port officials moved it three nautical miles to facilitate an inaugural function. In the meantime, port officials moved the Kerala High Court against the company for defaulting on payments. (The legal battle continues to this day.)

A few weeks after Hansita washed ashore Mundakkal beach, the residents of Eravipuram were confronted with a terrifying situation – their shore was diminishing because of the high waves caused by the ship. High waves would lash at the ship and caused damage to several houses, the residents say. 

Jayan Micheal, who is a part of the samara samiti (a collective) that demanded the immediate removal of the ship from the shore tells TNM: 

"It is of course fun to watch when someone else's mother goes insane, isn't it? That's the situation here. When we lost houses and our shore, people from outside began to throng this place to see the ship." 

Jayan also says that residents carried out several protests demanding that the ship be removed from the shore. 

"From marches to fasting to protesting outside the Collectorate, we have done everything. Still, we continued to get only one answer from the officials, that the company that owns the ship was unwilling to tow it away," Jayan says. 

In the months since it washed ashore, constant pressure was put on the company to take the ship away, but they failed to oblige, a senior port official told TNM. 

A few months ago, a Kannur-based company Ferro Rolls and Metals was awarded the contract to dismantle the ship. This was after a Central government enterprise Metal Scrap Trading Corporation (MSTC) tendered the contract for Rs 2 crore. 

Port officials say that it was the company that sought the help of MSTC, in order to get the ship removed from the shore. 

In the first week of January, the district administration gave permission to Ferro Rolls and Metals to begin work. 

However, local residents still some misgivings – while their demand was that the ship be removed from the shore, now they worry that dismantling the ship may lead to environmental hazards. 

Kuruvila, a local representative of the Kerala Students Union (KSU) echoes the same concerns. 

"The people's demand was not that it should be dismantled, but that it must be removed. In most countries, ship wrecking is banned and it happens only in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh now. In a study pertaining to ship wrecking, it was found that the companies dump the oil and asbestos in the sea. The company would only take whatever they require, and dump the rest in the sea and pollute it. This is a major concern the people now have, although they are relieved that the ship is finally leaving the shore," he says. 

Allowing the ship to be dismantled, District Collector Dr Karthikeyan had ordered the contractors to abide by the directives of the Pollution Control Board while dismantling the ship, in order to avoid possible environmental hazards.

This meant that no construction should be done on the shore, and that they should not use acid. 

While tourists continue to throng the shore to see the giant ship being dismantled, the locals are happy that their protests have led to some action.  

(All photographs by LV Alexander)

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