Accidents on the Indian coast send the administration into a tizzy

Jan 13, 2010, 4:06AM EST
Two ship wrecks have put the authorities into a tizzy forcing them to take a call on the prevailing maritime laws

Reports of accidents taking place despite the best efforts of the administration have upset the industry and port authorities alike. What is appalling is that these incidents seem to defy all the safety measures put in place for making oceans safe and secure and to bring in efficiency in shipping, notwithstanding the fact that ships are continuously being integrated with advanced technology and sophisticated instruments to enable them to have unprecedented levels of navigational and operational capabilities. 
In 2007 alone, 12 ship wrecks occurred on the coast of India mostly during stormy weather. Subsequently, hardly any serious incident having occurred, it was felt that measures taken by the government were yielding the desired results. But all of a sudden a 9,000 DWT vessel laden with iron ore fines Black Rose which did not have a valid insurance certificate sank near Paradip port in Orissa on September 9th 2009. Another tragic incident occurred a few days ago when 22,000 DWT AsianForest broke into two off the New Mangalore port.
These two incidents have sent officials in the Directorate General of Shipping, Government of India into a tizzy after industry and ports began raising related issues on wreck removal. 
In 2005, wreck removal and port entry rules were drafted to ensure that shipping companies pay for damages caused by ships to ports and harbors. If ships have valid cover, ports can claim expenses for wreck removal and damages for oil spillage directly from insurers. But the proposed rules were put in cold storage after strong lobbying against it by the International Group of Protection and Indemnity Clubs, a group comprising 13 mutual P&I clubs that between them provide cover for oil pollution and wreck removal for about 90% of the world’s ocean-going ships by capacity.
“Our course of action is based on two fronts,” stated Lakshmi Venkatachalam, Director General of Shipping & ex-officio Additional Secretary to the Govt. of India. “First is the punitive action and details about which are being worked out in the case of the two recent accidents. The other is to bring in place systematic reforms for which a Technical Committee has been formed for consideration.”
 
Capt. Deepak Kapoor, Nautical Surveyor cum Deputy Director General (Technical) stated, “We have provided safeguards but it cannot be said that the coastal waters will be absolutely safe. There are national and international laws and it in the interest of the ship owner, cargo owners and the master of the vessel to adhere to these. The ISM Code expects the master and ship owner to undertake risk assessment, otherwise it cannot be said that adequate safeguards have been taken and it would mean that contingency plans are not available in time of crises.”
 
The maritime industry has always waited for incidents to occur to bring in place safety measure and conventions. Perhaps the wake up call may come only after a ship wreck takes place inside a port blocking the approach channel to a major port.
 
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