The Directorate General of Shipping is continuously monitoring the situation and providing guidance for securing the estranged ship SSL Kolkata near West Bengal coast, 10 miles away from the Sundarbans. Internationally renowned salvage company – M/s. Smith International, Singapore – has been engaged for salvaging the ship. However, salvage operations are held up due to adverse weather and sea conditions. The salvers have reached Kolkota and the operation will commence once the weather improves. No loss of life has been reported due to the fire in the ship.
The communication centre of the Directorate General of Shipping – DGComcentre, received a call on the 13th last at 2250 hrs, from merchant container ship,stating that the vessel had an explosion in a cargo hold and containers were on fire and requested for assistance. The vessel had 22 crew members and was carrying 464 containers (613 TEUs) from Krishnapatnam port, Andhra Pradesh to Kolkata port, West Bengal. Immediately the DG Comcentre alerted MRCC Haldia and all concerned authorities of the Directorate General of Shipping, Coast Guard and Kolkata Port Trust to provide necessary assistance to vessel’s Master and crew.
The situation was reviewed early next morning and the Kolkata Port Trust and Indian Coast Guard were requested to render full support to the vessel for dousing the fire, save lives and prevent pollution from ship. The vessel master and crew abandoned the ship due to uncontrollable fire on board the ship and the Indian Coast Guard rescued the entire crew and brought them to Haldia by their vessel ICGS Rajkiran.
Next day, the technical officers of the Directorate General of Shipping advised to take urgent steps to avoid any kind of pollution as the vessel was floating with fire close to Sunderbans which is an eco-sensitive area. The shipping company and its managing counterpart were instructed to take swift action, with the support of all agencies, experts and salvers to arrest the drifting of the vessel towards international boarder and Sunderbans.
The Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Department, Kolkata convened a meeting with the representatives of Kolkata Port Trust, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, the Indian Register of Shipping (the Classification Society of the vessel SSL Kolkata) and Ship owner on the same day and took measures to coordinate and ensure that the ship does not drift towards Sunderbansand Bangaladesh waters. The Indian Navy accordingly led an operation on 16th June, – Indian Navy commandos and 3 crew were flown by helicopter sea king and boarded the vessel safely and anchored the vessel 15 miles away from Bangladesh boarder.