Port authorities' negligence caused Chennai oil spill, says govt report

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A report filed by the principal secretary to the Tamil Nadu government Atulya Misra has alleged that negligence of Kamarajar port authorities and cargo ship companies was responsible for the Chennai Oil spill.

The report claims that as against the initial information of 2 tonnes of slick spilling into the sea, oil sludge totalling more than 150 tonnes was collected from the sea. The report also says that petroleum products were found washed ashore at RK Puram while oil slick was found washed ashore along the coastline well beyond the Injambakkam beach.

Firefighters and volunteers try to clean up oil that has washed ashore, in Chennai in this photograph taken on February 4

The report has accused the Kamarajar port authorities of failing to inform of the accident. "You (port authorities) have not taken meticulous steps to systematically assess the damage and report the
extent of spillage of oil into the sea. Have not assessed the exact quantity of oil that would have spilled into the sea due to damage in ship bunkers. This lapse affects the marine environment and the shoreline of the coast of Tamil Nadu," the report said.

The report has warned that the government can file criminal prosecution before the court for violations of section 9 (1) of environment protection act 1986. The report holds the negligence port authorities and owners of the cargo ships accountable for the disaster. The government has given them three-day period to explain why criminal prosecution should not be initiated against them for failing to follow procedure. "State why penal action should not be taken against you for negligence."

"Non-receipt of reply within 3 days will be construed that you have no satisfactory explanation to offer," the report states while highlighting that the authorities are liable to five years imprisonment
or Rs 1 lakh fine or both.

According to the report, the oil spill occurred at around 4 am on January 28 at a distance of 1.5 kilometre from Kamarajar Port. An outbound BW Maple that had offloaded LPG at the port collided with an inbound petroleum carrier ship, MT Dawn Kanchipuram carrying petroleum products
to the tune of 32,000 MT. The collision led to a spill of heavy furnace oil and slop oil from MT Dawn Kanchipuram's bunkers.

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