Fire on IOC charter vessel doused, major environmental disaster avertedtext_fields
"This is a story of great coordination and superb multi-disciplinary efforts. Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy alongside Sri Lankan Navy have successfully put out the fire on New Diamond vessel," said Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, Chairman of Indian Oil Corp (IOC).
The very large crude carrier (VLCC), which was chartered by IOC to ferry oil from Kuwait to its Paradip refinery in Odisha, caught fire on September 3, about 65 kilometers off the east coast of Sri Lanka.
Vaidya said the fire was extinguished two days back, without any impact on the oil that the ship was carrying.
"The entire cargo was saved," he said. "Imagine the environmental disaster that would have happened if the two million barrels of crude oil on the ship would have caught fire or spilled into the sea".
The coordinated fire-fighting and rescue effort helped avert a Mauritius-like disaster where a Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean Island on July 25, and began spilling oil August 6.
"Thankfully, the cargo of crude oil is intact. We have averted an environmental disaster," he said.
Vaidya said a salvage team is now inspecting the ship for the damage and would decide on the future course of action including towing the vessel to a location for the transfer of crude oil to another ship for onward movement to Paradip.
Panama-flagged vessel MT New Diamond was loaded with 270,000 tonnes (2 million barrels) of Kuwaiti crude at Mina-Al-Ahmadi in Kuwait and was headed to Paradip.
The vessel is owned by Proto Emporios Shipping Inc, Liberia while the technical and commercial operator is New Shipping Ltd of Greece.
The vessel caught fire when it was at a distance of 38 nautical miles off the Sangamankanda Point.
He said in a well-coordinated effort of the Sri Lankan Air Force and Navy, 19 crew members of the ship were first rescued. Later the master and two officers onboard were safely rescued.
The assistance of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) was sought by the Sri Lankan Navy for fire-fighting. ICG, in a swift sea and air-coordinated operation, immediately deployed ships Shaurya, Sarang and Sujoy and a Dorner aircraft for fire-fighting.
On September 4, the mission was also joined by Indian Navy ships, Sahyadri and Shakti, and two Sri Lankan naval vessels.
New Diamond was first towed away from the Lankan shore and the fire was doused using a combination of foam and fire-extinguisher powder.
"Once the salvage team gives a go-ahead, a ship-to-ship transfer of crude oil will happen and the cargo will then head for Paradip for final discharge," he added.