Thursday, 26 August 2010

Marinas in Mumbai

On 25th Aug I came across this article in Mumbai Mirror where they envisioned new Marinas in several areas near Mumbai, such as Gateway, Mandwa, Girgaum chowpatti, Worli seaface, Revas, Mandwa, Alibag, Elephanta and Belapur in 2-3 years. It is about time. They say only the investor is missing.

Fishermen cooped up for monsoon in Mandwa

Meanwhile the media has totally forgotten that there is the perfect spot called Prince's dock that is being filled up soon to make way for the Mumbai Port trusts "planned" container terminal. At same time a part of Mumbai's heritage will be lost to the future generations forever and people will be able only to read about it in the history books. Perhaps that is what is called progress or evolution.

Boats being stored at Belapur

For example how many does remember the Bombay Explosion? That time it took 7 months to restore the docks into working condition, now they are willingly filling it up to make way for an absurd plan that only serves the MbPT's greed.

Map of Mumbai area with red spots marking the "marina" hotspots mentioned in the article

The 2-3 year time span for building a Marina seems very short in Indian terms, it only took 20 years to build the Bandra - Worli sealink after all political and legal hurdles were passed. I don't think a marina is going to make any difference in way of getting the political goodwill and permits to go ahead with such developments. There is always bound to be some goonda that crawls out from under a stone and presents his own angle and agenda to the project when he smells the crores in the air.

A bit up the river a private floating jetty of marina standard

It sounds very fatalistic but I've seen and read how things work in India and it is not nearly easy or smooth despite how much the wheels are greased up. Maybe the marina development will present another avenue for illegal sand dredging activities that are reported in newspapers.

Bottom line is that there is a growing yachting community in Mumbai area as Aashim Mongia says. If nothing is done to service this clientele they are going to find their own venues in more favorable locations and disappear from Mumbai (taking away the revenue and employment that could be generated). As I blogged earlier all yachties have had great difficulties finding monsoon storage for their boats since the Prince's dock was made unavailable.

Aashim Mongia of Westcoast Marine Services

Some boats went all the way down to Goa and some boats pooled together and rented a space in Belapur which is normally used for sand business and during these rainy months has been more of a mud pool than a boat yard. Few boats went down to Mandwa and beached their boats on mudflats during spring tide.

Lets hope the Mumbai Mirror article is the harbinger of change in attitude and the light at the end of the tunnel for the yachting fraternity in Mumbai.

Marinas, Parks and Recreation Developments: Proceedings of the International Conference : Milwaukee, Wisconsin June 26-30, 1994

Marinas: A Working Guide to Their Development and Design

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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Mumbai oil spill - epilogue

So the MSC Chitra is still sitting there on Prong Reef and waiting to be salved. By this time I understand Smit Lloyd has the contract for salving both cargo and vessel. I read the vessel will be a full write off, I hope she will be floated and towed off to ship breakers.

Leaving her where she is now could alter the marine climate severely. I was told by a local accredited reef surveyor I happened to meet that Prong Reef has wonderful corals there. I can only imagine what is the damage there now after all the heavy fuel oil that has leaked out.

Chitra can't blame it on Khalijia writes Mumbai Mirror but reading the article I can deem the Khalijia III came in on port side of MSC Chitra and was in error as the management claims. Also the Police argues correctly that action should have been take earlier to avoid the collision.

Pink color showing Khalijia III, red MSC Chitra

Compensation notice slapped on Chitra writes DNA but does not delve in the reasons of the collision and what caused the oil spill (Khalijia III's impact on Chitra).

Oil clean up in front of Colaba by Navy Cadets. I hope this incident will still be remembered when they get older and some of them hopefully into positions where they can make a difference.

Ravens eating dead fish on the Mandwa beach

Chitra too old for high seas was written in Mumbai Mirror is a new rule for me. I don't know where they have dug up that International ports do not allow vessels that are older than 20 yrs of age alongside. My opinion is that as long as the vessel is properly surveyed by Class society and carries the requisite valid certificates to prove it as well as the mandatory insurances (pollution, hull, machinery, crew) she is legally seaworthy and if anything happens in between surveys it is the Master's duty to report to the Company that his vessel is not fit for sea.

State wants 3cr for cleanup op on (30mil INR ~ 6.00.000 USD) it still sounds cheap in my ears.

No clean chit for Captain's and here they touch the issue of why this led to an accident.

Another plot showing both vessels in the channel, blue Khalijia III, red MSC Chitra

Oil spill extent imagery is being published by the India's space research agency and it can be clearly seen that the oil has spread far up into Navi Mumbai and down to Alibag (as I also have experienced first hand). While I was down in Alibag I took a stroll down the beach and met three chaps from the MNHS (Mumbai Natural History Society) and they told me they had been commissioned to survey the whole Maharashtra coast for the damages.

Mandwa beach littered with oil smeared cookie packets

Meanwhile the debate has spurned off some interesting dialogue and brought daylight on some other issues like e.g. shipping empty containers with papers that they contain export goods in a scam to cheat the government on tax money, see this: Chitra containers stuffed with scrap.

Pollution on Mandwa beach

The other good thing that may have come out of this debacle is that India is considering to sign the bunker pact on oil spilled by vessels.

Dead fish on Mandwa beach after pollution

The piece the resistance comes in the black box transcript from MSC Chitra published by I have copied it down below as the website may be virus infected according to my web browser:

The transcript of the SVDR recording:9:35:04: Chitra turns to Starboard 20
9:35:05: CHITRA: “Isko kya ho gaya?” (What is he doing?) (Captain of Chitra reacting to what appears to be MV Khalijia swerving sharply to port side after having stayed on her starboard side while approaching the navigational channel)
9:35:25: KHALIJIA 3: “MSC, MSC, this is Khalijia 3. I am altering to port. I am altering my course to port. Pass on my starboard. Over.”
9:35:37: KHALIJIA 3: “MSC MSC, this is Khalijia 3. I am altering to port. I am altering to port. You also to port please.”
9:35:37: CHITRA: “Paagal ho gaya hai kya?” (Is he crazy?) (Captain of Chitra talking on board, appears to be talking to a duty officer)
9:35:41: CHITRA: “Hard starboard” (urgently, ordering finally evasive action, too late)
9:35:49: KHALIJIA 3: “MSC, MSC. Alter to port please.”
9:35:51: KHALIJIA 3: “Alter to port please.” 

9:35:59: “Alter to port.”

Below are a few videos shedding further light on the accident:

Showing Khalijia III & MSC Chitra right after collision

This is one of the first reports showing Officials and Chitra

This is a Hindi report of the accident showing diagrams of how the collision happened, very illuminating

Now, having read the black box transcript and seen the last video with the diagrams I would dare to opine that Khalijia III may have had some steering issues, perhaps due to technical reasons. MSC Chitra may have been doing "dead slow" on her engine (slow rudder response) and then reacted too slowly to the sudden threat developed by Khalijia III's unexpected continued turn. Captain of Chitra correctly by the rules also turned to starboard in case Khalijia III would manage to go to starboard (thats why he asked his Duty Officer if he [Capt of Khalijia III] is crazy as nobody usually makes a port evasive turn). Instead of talking on the VHF a rudder maneuver should have been immediately ordered. Khalijia III should have taken full astern on her engine when she realised something is wrong with her steering. (Easy to be after smart here).

These points will be considered in the arbitration court in London where the ratio of who pays how much of the lost cargo, written off vessels, lost charter time, oil spill cleanup etc.

Not least but last I read an article by Darryl D'Monte going very deep into root causes of the cost of oil. I have taken liberty to quote a few passages from the article:

"The irony is that MbPT is part of history and should now be phased out. It had its heyday during the East India Co and British Raj when it handled much of the trade. "

"What is more, MbPT occupies 1,800 acres of prime real estate in the island city, three times the area of the city’s controversial mill lands, and could be redeveloped as a recreation and housing hub. Of course, the needs of the few thousand remaining dock workers have to be accommodated, but many of the world’s cities have seen a makeover of their docklands, London in particular."

These issues I have blogged about earlier and is showing MbPT's greed in how they are now developing the Prince's dock into a container terminal when they should be looking at getting the container traffic to places where it belongs, i.e. closer to the industries and not population. Instead they are inviting more ships into the port and also increasing the risk of further accidents in the future.

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Sunday, 15 August 2010

Mumbai oil spill

It was an ordinary day on August 9th when it was announced in the news that two cargo ships, MSC Chitra and Khalijia III had collided just in front of Mumbai harbor and that one of them was sinking. When MSC Chitra sank, or rather, was beached on Prong Reef, she started leaking out heavy fuel oil (HFO). Official estimates was that around 800 tons leaked out in Mumbai waters and about 500 containers had fallen into the sea.

MSC Chitra (picture courtesy of

Reports states that MSC Chitra was on the way out of Mumbai harbor enroute to Gujarat while the Khalijia III was on anchorage and was on the way into the harbor. I have not seen any diagrams of how the collision has taken place but first impression is that this accident could have been avoided with better lookout.
All the colors of the rainbow at Belapur

We could also see the effect of the accident very clearly in our smeared water line and dirty tenderboat as well as the floating lumps of congealed HFO that come by with the currents. Worst with HFO is that it comes off with great difficulty and we have to brush off our tender every night.  While Media was talking about the oil slick that was nearing Elephanta and posing a risk to the mangroves it was already there. The Authorities did nothing except talk a lot at first, it seemed no oil spill contingency plan had been made. Then the traffic was closed to Mumbai port and the Indian Navy was called upon to spray dispersant that makes the HFO sink to the bottom of the sea. After that International salvers were called but as it seems the closest Salver was in Singapore it'll take some time before they can arrive to the scene.

HFO pollution on shores

Some days later even the Belapur jetty was black with HFO and cookie packets from containers floated to the shores that local people opened for the stray dogs to eat. Authorities advised fishermen not to catch fish, still I watched people venturing out to ea every morning for fishing. It is hard when it is your only livelihood. I wonder if they managed to sell their catch at all.

Stranded cookie packets from containers

We also saw at times (and reported to the VTS) containers floating by our anchorage position. While tendering ashore there is still one container stranded in the mangroves. News reports that some of these containers carry some very hazardous chemicals inside them.

Acquaintances told me that the Marine drive was also littered with big splotches of HFO as well as the mangrove at Colaba near the Navy area seems to be totally gone black from HFO. At least here in Belapur area I have not seen any anti-pollution measures taken. I suppose there are no equipment for this kind of incidents. The response from the Authorities has been inadequate, one only has to wonder what would happen if an oil spill of the BP magnitude would happen at the Indian coast?
Soon after the accident the blame game started, the pilots were blamed on leaving the vessel too early at Middle Ground, the vessel traffic management system (VTS) was blamed on not monitoring the traffic, the ships blamed they had been on different radio channels and each other, the crew blamed the port officials, politicians started pointing at each other and so on.
The fact remains that a collision happened in fair weather during broad daylight that lead to a minor environmental disaster.

My opinon of current affairs would be:
- The pilot leaving the ship earlier is a normal praxis in most ports when the seaconditions are bad and in Mumbai the swell is quite high. From Middle ground there is only one pair of buoys (visible by eye) to be passed and after that any course can be taken (depending on your destination), any navigator can master this task, it is like driving to the next lights and take a turn. I'm sure the pilot advised the Captain where to proceed and also the current traffic in the vicinity. If the Master agreed to let the pilot disembark it was his decision as he could have expressed his inexperience in the area and ask the pilot to stay until port limits. Anyway, legally pilots are not responsible of the ships they pilot, they just give advice and while most Masters let the pilots take their ships in/ out of ports they are always in the end responsible for what the pilot does. Hence the Master/ Officer on duty should always double check the orders and decisions taken by the pilot as per good seamanship;

- While the VTS is tasked on monitoring the traffic they are not responsible for individual vessels movements, they can advise of dangers though and it is the Master's task to navigate as per the Rules of the Road (COLREG's). My experience of Mumbai VTS is that they are far too stretched to be able to effectively monitor everything that happens in Mumbai port. Even here the legal aspect falls on the Master, the VTS is just a tool for him;

- My question is that what did the Master/ Officer on watch do on both vessels? It was daylight and fair weather, no rain and good visibility as well as plenty of deep water to move around in. In such coastal navigation areas I'm sure that the both vessels Insternational Safety Management Systems (ISM) stipulated that the bridge manning should have consisted at least of the Master, Officer of the Watch, lookout and helmsman. Did none of these 8 pairs of eyes realize there was a close quarter situation developing? I'm sure the accident reports that will be filed by both Masters must be nothing short of an award in science fiction;

- Media had a field day on the fact that both vessels were on different radio channels and could not communicate with each other. I am and have always been against this kind of radio navigation as one can never be sure what is being said and with whom. Furthermore the COLREG's gives clear rules of the road, who has "right of way" and who is the "give away vessel" in various situations. COLREG's even stipulate that in the event that it seems the "give away vessel" is not taking evasive action the "right of way vessel" is then obligated to do so. Some might argue about what is the distance to 2 vessels when this regulation comes into force and in my opinion it depends on the size of the vessel. The bigger the vessel, the longer the distance, as one has to judge the "point of no return" when the other and your own vessel is not able to avoid a collision whatever measures are taken. If I would be the OOW or Master I would never like to be that close. In the end the radio channel has no effect on the navigation whatsoever as they do not steer the ship, the man in command does it. Legally they will be blamed for this neglect though, as they should have been in radio contact as has been judged in many courts regarding several collision incidents;

- Media put some notice that MSC Chitra had Port State deficiencies but it was not detained in New Zealand and Australia earlier. As per Equasis she has been having Port State issues since 1998 (or even earlier) but only once in 1998 was she detained in Italy. Same fact also applies to Khalijia III, she has also been having Port State deficiencies since 1999 (or even earlier) and she has been detained twice once in 2001 in Italy and once in 2007 in India. MSC Chitra was built in 1980 and Khalijia in 1985 so even the age points to the fact that these both ships are approaching the end of their service life;

- Whatever the condition of the ships it has not been reported it was a technical failure so my only million dollar question remains: What were the personnel doing on the bridge if not looking out of the window to monitor the close quarter situation developing?

The sun still shines on Mumbai

In the end I'm guessing both Companies will be implicated and an arbiter will assess who had more fault than the other and the salvage and oil spill damages will be split on a ratio, perhaps 70/30 or along those lines. The public media will forget this issue when a new scandal or catastrophy emerges and life will go on...

Below are links to news articles about the issue:

Aug 9

Aug 11

Aug 12

Aug 13

Aug 14

Aug 15
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Monday, 2 August 2010

Captain's blog July 2010

July has gone my vacation is over and I am back at work for a year or so to come. Well, those who are not famliar with the Mumbai weather I can tell you it is n the middle of the rain season and it rains a lot in Mumbai. It also winds a lot and at times we get over 1m waves here behind Elephanta when it really blows.

Torrential rain at Cuffe Parade
We're tendering to Belapur jetty, it is a 4nm trip so in order to economize a bit we have scheduled trips morning & evening with our own tender. Most of the times it is wet ride either due to the rain pouring down the sky or the sea being so rough. At Belapur it is a quagmire of mud and sand so every night we lift up the tender and wash it off.
Butterfly on door frame in Mandwa

Now I have also other duties on my head - to take care of the Owners other yachts in Mumbai and Goa. There are 3 of 15-20m yachts and a dozen or so RIB's and Boston Whalers to look after in Mumbai only. I have spent hours rooting around them inspecting deficiencies and things to do. Meetings down at Nariman Point, accounting procedures, quotes to be queried, prices to be found out, suppliers, service providers, schedules, materials, spares, engine overhauls, electrical works, interior refurbishment, tank cleaning, carpentry, topside painting, antifouling, glassfibre works ... the list is getting longer by the hour and I'm not mentioning the works for Kalizma.

Our runaway boat
Then it did not make the list shorter that a couple of the yachts had a bit of ground touching involving broken props and drive shafts, broken gimbal bearing housings. Actually on the 21st we had a SAR for a RIB that had broken it's moorings and blown off. We found the boat off the power plant on a rocky beach with the tube broken and probably the hull too.

Path to the Mandwa beach

On 20th after a long meeting I met Avnish in Mumbai and had lunch at Gokul's resturant with him and Saini.
Mandwa beach

On 24th Sunil departed for UK and France to do his Y4 & Y3 tickets and in France to get some training in Cigarette boat maintenance. Owner intends to have the CIgarette boat stationed in Mumbai. The boat is 50 feet long with 2750 HP engines and does 100 knots. FYI, Kalizma has barely 900 HP. That'll be fun to look after.

Mandwa beach
On the 31st I was invited to go and spend the weekend at Avnish place in Mandwa, it was great relaxation in the country side chatting with Avnish and his mother Onita who was visiting from Goa. There was not much else to do as the rain was sleeting down quite heavily for most of the time. There was about an hours pause in the barrage and I managed to go for a short walk to the beach.


1st August I was back onboard again preparing for another hectic week orchestrating the big boat symphony. Until next month.

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