Less than two years after Ennore witnessed a devastating oil spill following the collision of two tankers, more bad news has arrived at its shores. This time, a tanker named MT Coral Stars which was berthed at the Kamarajar Port suffered an oil spill in the early hours of Sunday. An official statement from the port states that the spilled fuel oil quantity is less than two tonnes.
According to authorities at the Kamarajar Port, the spill took place at 4.03 am on Sunday, when the fuel was being discharged into the port through a flexible hose at Marine Liquid Terminal 1. MT Coral Star is an oil/chemical tanker with a gross tonnage of 25,400. The vessel built in 2004 was carrying furnace oil. The oil allegedly spilled due to a fault in the hose that was being used to transfer it.
“At around 04:03 hrs, it was noticed that the flexible hose got snapped from the berth side. Immediately, the discharge of cargo was stopped by operating the emergency control button,” the release said, "Because of the snapping of hose, some quantity of Fuel oil which was mostly contained in the hose got spilled in the sea water in front of the berth area. Preliminary estimate of spilled Fuel oil quantity is less than 2 tonnes. The emergency response mechanism was immediately activated and all concerned agencies including Coast Guard swung in action to attend and mitigate the situation.”
Concerned authorities rushed to the site and the Tamil Nadu government was also informed of the spill, the statement said. A fence boom was immediately deployed, according to port authorities, around the vessel to arrest the drift of spilled fuel oil. “Ariel survey was also done by the Coast Guard along with sea side reconnaissance by their Interceptor Boat so as to assess the spillage surface. Visually it was observed that the spillage is confined within the Break water area of the Port and mostly with the fenced boom area,” they further stated.
Sources in the Coast Guard tell TNM that the onus of this leak will be on the private tanker, as it is responsible for the maintenance of equipment used to transfer its contents.
The Coast Guard has deployed two patrol vehicles to understand the extent of the spill and to assess what steps need to be taken.
"On Monday, a pollution control ship will be sent there to remove the oil," says the source in the coast guard. "This is not a major oil spill. It will amount to two or three barrels. That will be upto 2000 litres," he adds.
In January 2017, a collision of two ships near Chennai's coastline led to a massive oil spill from an inbound tanker named MT Dawn Kanchipuram. Three days after the spill, the Coast Guard had said in a press statement that over 20 tonnes of oil had gone into the water. This exposed a cover up by port authorities who claimed that only 2-3 tonnes of oil had been spilled.
In connection to the current leak, environmentalists says that if the oil was contained within the harbour it will be easy to clean up.
"Till the Coast Guard's Pollution Control vehicle reaches the spot, the leak has to contained within the harbour," explains Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre. "Otherwise containing the oil once it reaches water outside the harbour, which is far more forceful, clean-up will be very difficult."
(With inputs from Anjana Shekar)