Navy prevents drift of burning merchant vessel towards Bangladesh maritime boundary

16 Jun 2018

In a daring and  complex operation, a  Seaking 42 C helicopter from the Eastern Naval Command  (ENC) winched down  one MARCO (Marine Commando) officer on the ill-fated merchant vessel SSL KOLKATA which had been on fire and drifting for the last two days. The ship had to be abandoned by the 22 crew members on June 14 off the Sagar Island at the mouth of the Ganges Delta. The MARCO ascertained the conditions in the forward part of the ship and later called in the helicopter to lower on board three crew members of the ship. The team managed to drop the starboard anchor from the ship to prevent her from drifting any further. Thereafter the team prepared the seamanship gear for the ship to be towed if required. The live nature of the threat was evident from the explosion on board in the forenoon which restarted the fire. The helo skillfully recovered all four members of the team returned to its base.

Naval Officer in Charge (West Bengal) (NOIC) Cmde Suprobho K De said that there were directions from the Flag Officer Commanding- in- chief ENC to stop the drift of the burning ship towards the Sunderbans delta at all costs.  Besides, the drifting ship posed a serious ecological threat because of the high temperatures on board, should the ship capsize on the sandbanks causing pollution from the oil on board.

In keeping with the directions, a Seaking 42C helicopter and a Dornier aircraft were despatched from Visakhapanam  with a core  team comprising divers, MARCOS, shipwrights and seamanship specialists to stage through  the IAF airbase at Kalaikunda. Simultaneously, the NOIC liaised with the officials of the DG Shipping, Indian Coast Guard, KoPT, the ship owners, agents and salvage specialists at Kolkata and kept them informed of the plans. INS Kadmat, which was exercising in the Bay of Bengal on 15 Jun 18 was directed to proceed at best speed to augment the on-site support, wherein the ICG ships were also standing by. Kadmat arrived at the site at first light on 16 Jun 18. The drift of the ship has been successfully arrested and now the owners and other stake holders can carry out salvage operations as necessary. (EOIC)