India Intelligence Report

   Oil Slick Threatens Goa


As oil patches from the Panama-registered MV Ocean Seraya which broke into two after hitting a rock during a recent storm system began washing up on the popular tourist beaches in Goa, environmentalists warned of larger dangers of an oil slick. Ocean Seraya ran aground around 5 kilometers off the coast of Karnataka.

Greenpeace spokesman Ramapati Kumar warned of an oil slick 9-km-wide is spreading northwards towards Goa pushed by strong winds and choppy seas because of the annual south-west monsoon rains. He accused the Government of inaction. Kumar said that “Nothing has been done” as the slick has “impacted marine life because usually the worst happens in the first two days.”

Officials dismissed these accusations and played down the risk to wildlife or the beaches. But environmentalists insist that a serious threat remained as not all of the ship’s 690 tons of fuel had been pumped out and it is probable that as much as half may have already spilled from the ship.

Coast guard official K.B.L. Bhatnagar, seemed to agree saying that “The slick has been neutralized as of now, but a threat remains because the ship’s fuel tanks are still inaccessible.” However, he said that the slick is not very thick.

The Government has contracted a Singapore-based company with expertise in cleaning up oil spills and has employed 100 people to clean-up including spraying dispersants, cleaning beaches, and on removing the remaining oil from the sinking ship.

The slick is small when compared to major world spillages. In November 2002, a tanker sunk off Spain’s Galicia province spilling 11,000 tons of fuel and devastated marine life and coastal areas along the coast.

India has no expertise in this area and needs to develop skill sets to be able to deal with such disasters. As the economy grows and more oil and natural gas is brought to India, the danger of such accidents is huge. With millions living on the coast and depending on fishing, a large scale accident will devastate their livelihoods.