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Human error the main cause for collision of ships in Ennore port leading to the Oil spill in the Chennai coast

Human error, over worked ship crew, the designated crew for ship safey assigned other jobs are being attributed by the Shipping Ministry to the collision of the ships B W Maple and Dawn Kanchipuram near the entrance of Kamarajar port Ennore causing a massive oil spill in the entire Chennai coast in January this year.

The shipping ministry which ordered an inquiry into the accident submitted its report to Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal based in Chennai on November eighth, nearly ten months after the accident.

The Ministry in its report submitted to the tribunal said the crew in both the ships assigned the task of overseeing the safety were careless and were not doing the job assigned to them to look for ships coming close to them.

The lookout group assigned the job of locating the vessel coming near them was given some cargo handling work and with the result no one could alert the engine room in time about the presence of another vessel moving close to them.

The crews of both the ships were blissfully ignorant of the impending disaster till it struck them near the entrance of the Kamarajar port on January 28 this year.

The report said the crew of BW Maple were overworked the previous day and therefore were too tired to look out for approaching ships.

There was no adequate staff trained to avert mishaps of this kind. Moreover the crews of Maples were mostly untrained workers who donít deserve to be on board a sailing ship.

Soon after the mishap MV Dawn Kanchipuram underplayed the leakage of oil from the ship and reported to the port authorities hardly two tonnes of oil could have entered the sea from the ship. The Kamaraj Port authorities trusted the ship's version to come to the conclusion that it was a minor accident and therefore steps were not taken to contain the damage at the initial stage.

The crews of Dawn Kanchipuram were not trained to handle the mishap of this kind. They could not locate the source of the leakage from the ship. All these factors compunded the problem and the net result the entire coast was flooded with oil slick.

A demand was placed before the Tribunal that the entire money of Rs fifteen crores deposited by the owners of MV Dawn Kanchipuram should be distributed to the affected fishermen of the area forthwith as compensation for the losses they suffered for a few months after the mishap.

The Tribunal headed by Justice M S Nambiyar and expert member P S Rao, however ordered the fisheries department to finalyse the quantum compensation for the affected fishermen within fifteen days. The case was posted for hearing to December 14th.

The National Green Tribunal received more than lakh applications from the fishermen affected by the oil slick in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram districts. The tribunal said the fisheries department should scrutinise the claims before identifying the beneficiary.

A section of the fishermen filed application for the second time demanding higher compensation. Initially the affected fishermen demanded Rs 17,000 as compensation which they increased it to Rs three lakh per family.

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