MUMBAI (Dow Jones)–Indian authorities are monitoring an oil spill from a ship that sank 25 nautical miles off the Mumbai coastline, assessing the situation and trying to limit damage to the environment, the environment ministry said Monday.
The vessel, MV RAK, had 60,000 metric tons of coal, 290 tons of furnace oil and 50 tons of fuel oil aboard when it sank Thursday.
On Sunday the ministry said the coast guard estimated that oil was leaking from the ship at 1.5 tons to 2.0 tons per hour, but there was no immediate threat to the city’s coastline.
In August 2010, two ships collided off Mumbai’s coastline in the Arabian Sea resulting in an oil spill and halting the movement of ships at two of India’s biggest ports. Recently, the MV Wisdom ran aground on Mumbai’s Juhu beach and had to be towed away, while on July 31 the un-crewed oil tanker MT Pavit ran aground off the city’s Versova beach, according to media reports.
The ministry Monday confirmed the Juhu beach area contained “some oil traces” after the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board began monitoring the area and sampling sea water Sunday.
However, it said the state government believed “the spill on the Juhu coast is a localized phenomenon due to some other reasons and not due to the RAK spill.”
“The ramifications of the ship Pavit being docked on Juhu beach since the last few days are also being examined,” it said, adding that the oil content is “negligible” at about one to two milligrams per liter.
The government has identified Mumbai’s coast as ecologically sensitive and drafted special conservation programs for the area.
Besides damaging coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, oil spills can affect the movement of ships at Mumbai’s ports, which are some of the country’s busiest and most strategically important.
The coast guard is overseeing work at the oil spill and other state authorities are ready to clean the shore if necessary, the ministry said. It has requested the National Institute of Oceanography ascertain marine life losses.
-By Eric Yep and Anirban Chowdhury, Dow Jones Newswires