It’s been over three months now since a Bangladeshi container ship capsized inside the Netaji Subhas Docks (NSD) in Kolkata but the possibility to salvage it and clear the berth in the near future looks bleak. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port (SMP), Kolkata, has already lost several crores over the last 90-odd-days as it is unable to use the berth.
“The owners of the vessel have abandoned it. It’s a legal issue now. We have got in touch with the insurers of the ship and other agencies to resolve the issue. We can’t go ahead and salvage the ship. After all, she is not our property. Under the circumstances, only the insurers can engage salvage agencies to recover the vessel and pay us demurrage charges. Such a situation is unprecedented in the long history of the port,” an SMP, Kolkata spokesperson said.
Around 9 a.m. on March 24, MV Marintrust 01 loaded 165 containers at Berth 5 NSD. The gross weight was 3,089 tonnes. The ship was to sail for Chittagong on March 25. Around 10.40 a.m., the ship keeled to Port (left side) and capsized. The incident took barely 15 minutes. Most containers remained on the vessel while a few sank and others had to be tethered with ropes to keep them from floating away. SMP, Kolkata also adopted measures to contain an oil spill if any.
“The port is not involved with the incident in any way. We are just the facilitator. The cargo was loaded by an agency under the guidance of the ship’s master and other crew. If the placement of the containers was wrong, the master and the agency involved will have to share blame. However, a thorough inquiry will only be possible once the vessel is salvaged. All 15 crew members are still in Kolkata and their statements will be important once the ship is salvaged,” a port official said.
Bangladesh has been trying its best to get the crew back home but Indian authorities are firm.
“That may have been possible had the owners not abandoned the ship. Now, the crew is the only link. SMP, Kolkata that is suffering a loss of revenue daily due to blockage of the berth can’t be expected to spend several crores to salvage the wreck without being compensated,” an Indian official said.
Over the last couple of years, several Bangladeshi barges have sunk in the river Hooghly due to no discernible cause. No effort has been made by Bangladesh to salvage the wrecks that environmentalists and river experts claim are causing pollution and affecting the flow of water.