Nowadays, a Cargo Ship carrying dozens of containers is stuck at Karachi Coast for the last 8 days. The Ship named Heng Tong 77 was en route to Istanbul from China when it drifted and got stuck in shallow waters Wednesday at the coast of Karachi.
In 2003, the ship Tasman Spirit was carrying oil for the Pakistan Oil Refinery. Within days of the shipwreck, crude oil from Iran began to leak and about 33,000 tons of oil spilt from the ship, severely affecting Karachi’s coastline and seas for months.
The Tasman Spirit spill caused irreparable damage to mangrove forests, fish, crabs, sea turtles, bird breeding and development on the coast. Emissions where water pollution increased. There was also an increase in air pollution.
According to a research report by the United Nations Environment Emergency Center, the effects of this catastrophe have been felt for months on plants and animals in and out of the ocean.
Now, almost two decades later, another MV Hang Tang, a ship coming from Singapore via Hong Kong to Karachi, has sunk in the sand, which is said to take two weeks or more to recover.
Although the ship is cargo, it also has oil in it. The fear is that in the event of an oil spill, it could once again damage Karachi’s coast. However, the crude oil in it is said to be about 118 tons, which is much less than the Tasman spirit.
Environmentalists are questioning what could happen if oil leaks from the ship, and is there any preparation to deal with it?
Ship stuck at Karachi Coast
Pakistan has the capability to stop oil spills from ships
Mohammad Ali Khan, an environmentalist and managing director said there is no competition between the MV Hang Tang 77 and the Tasman Spirit, which sank off the coast in 2003.
In his view, after the Tasman Spirit incident, the concerned agencies have significantly improved their capacity to deal with such a catastrophe.
He said that if for any reason the ship starts leaking oil, there are container booms that can be used to stop the oil spill.
The Director said that Pakistan already has this capability.
He hoped the ship would be evacuated without any environmental damage, as it was much smaller than the Tasman Spirit and had less oil.
He further said that while it was the responsibility of Karachi Port Trust to curb oil spills in and around the port, it was the responsibility of the Pakistan Maritime Security Force to take measures on this emergency basis. Twelve exercises have been held for this purpose.
A spokesman for the Karachi Port Trust also said that earthen embankments were being constructed to protect the coast and the sea from possible oil spills from stranded ships. In the event of an eruption, most of the coast will not be affected.
According to Federal Minister Ali Haider Zaidi, an inquiry committee has been set up to determine the cause of the shipwreck, which will submit its report within a week.
Why does Pakistan not have the capacity to evacuate stranded ships?
On the question of why Pakistan does not have a Selvage Master (a ship used to evacuate a stranded ship)? But a former chairman of the Karachi Port Trust told VOA on condition of anonymity that there is no shame in keeping it, but it is not financially easy to keep such a ship.
He said that any incident of the shipwreck on the coast has been going on for decades, for this purpose having a salvage master is at least equivalent to raising an elephant for an economy like Pakistan which obviously cannot be eradicated.
According to him, if such an incident occurs, the services of a salvage vessel are usually hired, which is a more workable procedure.
On this issue, the officials of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs said that the Salvage Master from the United Arab Emirates will reach Karachi in a day or two. KPT will also have two tugboats to assist in the operation.
Investigations are needed to determine whether the ship was delivered on time
The former chairman further said that in the case of MV Hang Tang 77 being stranded on the shore, it was necessary to investigate why the ship was not assisted in time. However, it has been reported that the captain of the ship had requested help from the emergency control rooms of Port Qasim and Karachi Port.
“Unfortunately, this type of investigation is not brought to light, which is why the real facts do not come to light,” he said.
He said that there should be a quick response force to deal with such incidents in future and take immediate action in any such incident.
Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s Special Assistant for Maritime Affairs Mahmood Maulvi said that the mistakes of the management of the ship in getting stuck in the sand are quite obvious.
He said the plane could never have come with such a weak engine.
According to the Special Assistant, the captain called for help with the delay. By then, both engines of the ship had stopped and the ship was approaching the shore and there was a significant delay at that time.
The Panama-registered MV Hang Tang-77 is said to be owned by an Iranian man whose company is registered in Dubai.
According to reports, the cost of removing the ship from the sand will be borne by the ship’s owner under the rules of the International Maritime Organization.