Chennai, Sep 5 (IANS) The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) chartered huge oil tanker ‘New Diamond’, laden with about 3,00,000 tonne of Kuwaiti crude on fire, has been towed more than 35 nautical miles away from Sri Lankan coast to safe waters, Indian Coast Guard said on Saturday.
The ship has been on fire since Thursday.
According to Coast Guard, with the coordinated efforts of the Sri Lankan ships and aircraft, the ALP Winger vessel successfully towed New Diamond more than 35 nautical miles away from the island nation’s coast.
The Indian coastal security agency added that the fire on-board of the very large crude carrier (VLCC) New Diamond is still on but on a reduced scale and there is no oil slick.
The fire was brought under control on Friday evening.
The 20-year old VLCC New Diamond, sailing under the Panama flag, was on fire since Thursday morning, about 37 nautical miles off the Sri Lankan coast and in the Sri Lankan Exclusive Economic Zone.
On Friday, the New Diamond’s Captain along with a Coast Guard officer and a sailor boarded the blazing oil tanker and assessed towing and anchoring facilities of the massive vessel that was still blazing.
“The towing and anchoring facilities are in good condition for those activities. Where the vessel would be towed will be decided by the Central government,” a Coast Guard official had told IANS.
He also said the cargo pumping facility is also intact and the cargo area has not been affected.
According to him, the fire is on the vessel’s port side and there is not much heat on the deck. The fire in the crew accommodation area has been put out.
The Indian government has decided to deploy two emergency towing vessels to tow New Diamond.
The Coast Guard was working on a multi-pronged strategy to prevent an oil spill from the massive vessel, which would be a huge environmental disaster if it occurs.
The Coast Guard also said a two-metre crack has been observed near the port aft portion of New Diamond, 10 metres above the waterline.
“If the crack propagates, and there is every likelihood of that, but cannot be predicted, then the ship’s stability could be affected. A ship at a standstill is still subjected to tremendous stresses and could break and capsize,” M. Kalayanaraman, Technical Editor, Riviera Maritime Media, had told IANS.
Kalyanaraman also said if the fire is still raging, it means the availability of fuel for the blaze, which could be bunker oil.
A Coast Guard official, however, told IANS that the crack has not grown further.
As per www.marinetraffic.com, the New Diamond oil tanker departed from Mina Al Ahmadi on August 23 and was headed to India’s Paradip port.
The oil tanker was expected to reach Paradip in Odisha on September 5 where the IOC has a large refinery.
The Coast Guard said the Sri Lankan Navy had sought assistance to fight the fire and the explosion on board the New Diamond.
According to reports, another oil products tanker Helen M, sailing under the Panama flag, had reached the location of New Diamond for rescue after receiving a distress message. Helen M was sailing from Mangaluru to Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.
Meanwhile, officials of IOC remained silent and were not available for comment.