ISLAMABAD   -   Danger of a major oil spill ashore the Karachi Seaview beach is imminent largely for lack of efforts to salvage merchant ship Heng Tong 77 which had drifted aground in shallow waters last Wednesday.

Industry sources told The Nation on Saturday that risk of oil spill from the Panama flagged ship is now on horizon because of lack of efforts to refloat ill-fated vessel.

In a related development Karachi Port Trust (KPT) which operates the Karachi Port has taken some preventive measures to contain the oil spill from the ship.     

Heng Tong 77 drifted aground on a beach in Karachi area in the morning Jul 21, after she dragged anchor in rough weather. 

Apparently owned by a Hong Kong shipping company, the ship was anchored off Karachi Port for the purpose of crew change before it lost anchors due to rough weather conditions.

In a related development, according to informed sources, the owner of the ship has brought in salvage teams to decide about the fate of the ship.

The 98 metres in length and 20 metres wide ship, with a capacity of 3,600 dead weight tonnage, said to be built in 2010, was waiting for a crew change outside the Karachi Harbour while on its way to Turkey from China when a mild sea storm caused it to lose its anchors and start drifting towards the shore. 

By the time the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) got to know of the situation it was too late as the ship was already in shallow waters. It is said that the Karachi Harbour’s navigation channel has not been impacted by the ship’s floating off to shore. 

By Friday evening, the KPT authorities had deployed oil booms around the affected area to contain the damage in case of any spillage. 

Earlier on Thursday, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi also visited the beach to see the stranded vessel up close. He said that the ship’s getting stuck at the beach had nothing to do with the KPT management but now it was here KPT and the Port Qasim Authority, too, were here to extend their expertise if required and requested by the ship-owner. 

He said that the PMSA had also been directed to play a more supportive and active role to investigate if there was any other reasons for the ship’s presence at the shore, adding that the ship was being closely monitored by both the KPT and PMSA. 

The minister was very clear that all consequential marine and environmental damages, if any, will be on account of the ship-owner. He said that under no circumstances will he allow the ship to leave Pakistani waters till they have paid their dues.