ICG continues fire fighting operation on MT New Diamond

NEW DELHI: The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has continued with the fire fighting operation on the east of Sri Lanka on Motor Tanker New Diamond, which is a Greek-owned vessel under charter by Indian Oil.

Twenty-two crew members of the oil Motor Tanker (MT) New Diamond, which caught fire after a major explosion in its engine room, have been rescued, ICG officials said on Saturday.

The first information about the vessel being on fire was received at the ICG Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC) Mumbai.

The ICG has deployed 6 ICG ships and two aircraft for fire fighting and to handle pollution response in event of an oil slick.

Officials said that the rescue operation is on and tanker has been tugged 40 miles away from Sri Lanka to safe waters successfully. MT New Diamond, a greek owned vessel, under charter by Indian Oil Corporation had a major explosion in the engine room on September 3 when it was transiting in Sri Lankan exclusive economic zone.

ICG Deputy Director-General Suresh Kumar, who is jointly running the rescue operation with Srilankan Navy, told ANI that of the 22 rescued crew, one is injured and has been hospitalised in Sri Lanka. Kumar said that the rescue operation may get over by Saturday evening if everything goes according to plan.

He said that with the help and advice of the master of MT New Diamond, a comprehensive plan was formulated and extensive fire fighting by ICG ship Shaurya, Sri Lankan naval ships and three tugs arranged by owners resulting in the containment of fire and was brought under control.

He ruled out any possibility of an oil spill and asserted that the situation is under control.

MT New Diamond is a large crude carrier with a length of 333 meters and carrying over three lakh metric tons of crude oil for the Indian Oil Corporation from Kuwait to Paradip.

“Once we got the information of explosion and was asked for help by Sri Lankan authorities, with the approval from Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence, we diverted ICG offshore patrol vessel (OPV) Shaurya which was operating in a nearby area along another OPV Sarang for immediate assistance,” Kumar said.

He said that ICG pollution response vessel Samudra Pehredar from Vishakhapatnam, OPV Sujay from Chennai, ICG Dornier from Madurai were also tasked to the rescue.

“ICG ship Shaurya was first to arrive and assumed on-scene commander duties at 5:30 pm on September 3 and immediately commenced fire fighting operation,” Kumar said adding that when the explosion happened, MT New Diamond was 25 miles away from Sri Lankan coast and was sailing towards Sri Lanka endangering people’s lives.

Therefore, Tug Winger was deputed there which towed the burning vessel 40 miles away in safe waters, Kumar said. As a preventive measure two Dornier aircraft along with oil spill dispersant have also been positioned at Mattala Airport in Sri Lanka.