Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unconventional Wisdom

Mumbai is playing host to an unusual visitor these days: A cargo ship MV Wisdom, has mistakenly found berth at the popular Juhu beach in Mumbai. The sight is attracting huge crowds and on Sunday, almost a lakh of people are said to have thronged the beach, forcing the police to make “Ganapati visarjan type” arrangements to avoid accidents.

What exactly has happened?
 MV Wisdom, a 25-year old Cargo vessel was being towed by another tug vessel Seabulk Plover to Alang in Gujarat from Colombo. Alang, a small coastal town in the Gulf of Khambat in Gujarat, with a population of just 18,464, is known for its ship-breaking industry and recycles almost half the ships recycled anywhere in the world. On 11th June, 2011, somewhere along its way, the towing cable between Seabulk Plover and MV Wisdom snapped and the vessel drifted towards Mumbai coast. Apparently, the crew of Plover did not realize the cable had snapped until Wisdom was too close to the coast, and when they did, it was too late for Plover to attempt a rescue!

What about the ship?
MV Wisdom was built in 1985 by Rickmers Werft, Bremerhaven, Germany and carries a Singaporean flag. It is 147 meters long, and reportedly weighs 16000 tonnes. Wisdom is primarily a cargo ship, and carries a load of upto 9000 DWT (DWT, or Deadweight Tonnage is a measure of how much total weight a ship can safely carry, including the weight of cargo, fuel, crew etc., and is equal to around a thousand kg.) by weight and 700 TEU by volume (TEU, or Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, is a unit of cargo capacity by volume, approximately equal to a container that is 20 feet long X 8 feet wide X 8.5 feet in height).

When the cable broke, the ship was 11 nautical miles off the Western Coast of India i.e. a distance of around 20 km and must have been sailing at a speed of not more than 3-4 knots (6-8 km per hour). The ship has no fuel and no crew.

The ship design is a double bottom continuous hull from peak to peak bulkhead.  A double bottom is a ship hull design and construction method where the bottom of the ship has two complete layers of watertight hull surface, which provides added strength and robustness to the ship.

The technical details of the ship are given below:
Type of ship:                Cargo Ship   
IMO Number:              8417558         
Flag:                             Singapore
MMSI Number:           564239000     
Callsign:                       S6AC5           
Length:                         147.0m
Beam:                          22.0m

Is something fishy?
Questions have certainly been raised. Owners of the ship are still unknown. It is also being asked as to what the ship was doing so close to the coast, and inside of the country’s vital installations such as oil rigs when the normal route from Colombo to Alang should have been from further away in the high seas. It is also known from International Maritime records that Seabulk Plover has some very powerful radio equipment onboard, as well as qualified specialist radio operators. Plover set sail from Colombo on 28th May 2011, but stopped updating her position to the International Maritime Organization after 30th May 2011. (The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires all vessels over 299GT to carry an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder on board, which transmits their position, speed and course, and some other static information such as vessel's name, dimensions and voyage details. For more details of the AIS project, see here). It is also not clear where is Plover now, and why its crew was not arrested or detained.

You can refer some interesting articles here and here.

What next? 
Authorities have so far failed to salvage the ship and tow it back into the sea. To get it afloat, a water level of approximately 4 meters is required.  The next attempt to salvage the ship will be made on July 3 when high tide is anticipated to be 4.58 meters. On that day, two tug boats of 90-tonne pull capacity will try to pull the ship and take it back atleast 3.5 nautical miles into the sea where it can anchor safely.

If the attempt fails, I hope we can look forward to a new sea-side restaurant.

No comments:

Post a Comment