- Rak Carrier
- Accident date
- Accident area
- 35 km from Mumbai Port
- Spill area
- Cause of spill
- Structural damage
- Quantity transported
- 60,000 tonnes of coal, 290 tonnes of heavy fuel oil, 50 tonnes of diesel
- Ship / structure type
- Bulk carrier
On the 4th August 2011, 35 km out from Mumbai Port, India, the Panamanian bulk carrier Rak Carrier, loaded with 60,000 tonnes of coal, 290 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel, sank in unknown circumstances.
The 30 members of the crew were evacuated by the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard.
On the 6th of August, water began to pour into the ship's structure causing oil to leak at a rate of 1.5 to 2 tonnes per hour, according to estimates from the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).
Response at sea
The ICG quickly sent equipment for survey and response at sea on site.
Refloating the cargo ship
Although the main strategy considered was chemical dispersion, lightering and refloating operations were deemed a priority despite difficult sea and weather conditions.
Four days after the sinking of the vessel an action plan was defined. The insurer was obliged to mobilise the necessary resources to plug the leak or remove the fuel oil from the wreck. Due to strong currents and poor visibility for several days, plugging operations by divers had to be postponed for a fortnight.
The rate of the leak into the sea was reduced (1 tonnes per hour) resulting in a continuous trail on the surface over 12 nautical miles. The ICG then began to monitor and disperse the oil, while continuing to conduct overflights on a daily basis.
One week after the incident, the appearance of discontinuous sheen above the wreck showed a clear decrease in the leak. The small scale of the spill, estimated at 150 tonnes in total, together with the sea conditions, did not appear to lead to significant risks of oiling of the coastline.
Response on land
Despite the low level of risk, oil was reported on the shore from the 8th August. The local authorities organised clean-up operations on the shore, with assistance from the ICG.
Lessons from the incident
Following this incident, the level of preparedness of the Indian authorities in charge of spill response was questioned, in particular concerning the lack of a dedicated State agency.
Furthermore, according to representatives of the ICG, the Indian ports' current contingency plans were generally unsuitable for managing ship-source pollution incidents of over 100 tonnes, a situation that remained unaided by the small number of Indian specialised contractors.
Lessons were later drawn in terms of preparedness, with the drafting of a Local Contingency Plan (LCP) in October 2011
In September 2011, the Indian Directorate General of Shipping banned ships insured by the Rak Carrier's Romanian P&I Club from accessing Mumbai Port, following "repeated refusal to compensate for the environmental damage caused by the pollution". This ban, applied in early February 2012, was contested by the P&I Club before the Supreme Court of Mumbai.
Cedre Sea & Shore Technical Newsletter, 2011, n°34