Thursday, January 27, 2011


From our guest blogger who has politely requested us not to reveal his identity but wants to make a very long point!

Ah Goa! Where you can sit back with a Kings beer, some Butter garlic Kalamari and watch the sunset on a beach, but wait what’s that Ship doing there blocking your view?  The MV River Princess has been a part of the Sinquerim-Candolim beach in Goa since June, 2000. It’s been there so long that the locals have forgotten what the beach looks like without the Ship.
Why haven’t the authorities removed it yet and sent it to Alang where it can finally meet its maker? This is the curious case of the MV River Princess and M/s Salgaoncar Mining Industries Limited.

 Nine companies from around the world have bid to remove the River Princess. Technical tenders received in response to the ninth global tender issued by the state government were opened on Monday, but with time to award the work order running out, the government may an extension from the high court of Bombay at Goa to take a decision.
The companies that have bid to remove the stranded vessel include: Jaisu Shipping Pvt Ltd from Kandla-Gujarat, Sea Reliance from Vasco da Gama, Resolve Salvage and Fire Europe Ltd from UK, Kadar Qureshi from Mumbai, Al Fara General Trading from Bahrain, Salgaocar Mining Industries Pvt Ltd from Goa and Titan Maritime (Sea) Pvt Ltd from Singapore. One Sanjeev Jain from Mumbai submitted a joint bid with Arihant-Shipbreaking, while Madgavkar Salvage has done the same teaming up with Smith Salvage of Singapore.
Confronted with legal action, the Goa government is expected to call for fresh global tenders to remove the River Princess, the bulk carrier that has been grounded off Candolim beach for 10 years.
Two contracts were terminated and eight tenders cancelled in the last nine years highlighting the extent of deliberate bungling within political circles here over the bid to remove the rusting ship.

Salvage experts said it would take at least three years to cut up and clear the remnants of the highly corroded 20,000 tonne vessel from the shore. The government is expected to insist that the job be done from the seaward side to avoid pollution and more damage to the beach. The project will cost the state exchequer over Rs 100 crore.

Through the decade-long saga, no one has talked of imposing costs on the owners of the vessel, the Anil Salgaocar-run Salgaocar Mining Industries Ltd. The vessel was anchored at Panjim outer harbour without insurance and drifted ashore in the June 2000 storm. The company also ignored a government order to refloat the stranded ship within 90 days.

SMIL director Sameer Salgaocar says his firm has “never shirked responsibility over the vessel.” But even after the state government took possession of the River Princess in 2003, the ship’s insides were stripped of all saleable material and massive holes appeared practically overnight in its hull to make refloating impossible. The ship is now seven metres deep in sand.

“The idea was to make sure the vessel would never be refloated, so the government would have little choice but to ask that it be broken down and taken away for scrap,” a salvage expert said. Anil Salgaocar, who is also an independent MLA, has run huge advertisements here in the past few days alleging a scam in the recent tender. He said he is prepared to remove the River Princess for free.

“The catch is, he wants to cut it up on shore and keep the scrap,” a government official said. The scrap, say experts, would fetch over Rs 30 crore. The government has so far ruled out the option of breaking the ship on shore.

A 2008 report by the National Institute of Oceanography said over 1.1 km of the Dando-Sinquerim coast had eroded because the River Princess is blocking the natural sedimentation. The beach had reduced by 14 metres between 2005 and 2006. 
With the stranded River Princess eroding 110 meters of candolim beach in the last eight years, there is a danger of sea making a further entry into land and flooding the villages of Candolim and Nerul in Goa . This issue was discussed during a recent meeting held to examine the status of the River Princess vessel and the problems faced. During the meeting, the report of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Dona Paula was put forward. The report stated that every year about 10 meters of Candolim beach gets eroded due to the stranded River Princess vessel.
It was also urged at the meeting to declare this situation as a ‘State Disaster’ in order to enable the state government with special powers to tackle the problem.

Advocate general (AG), Subodh Kantak, informed the high court of Bombay at Goa that the process of awarding a contract for towing away M V River Princess is in its final stages and a final decision would be taken within this week after convening a meeting of the tender committee. 

The AG told the high court that the bids of two companies had been short listed. 

"The technical bids as well as financial bids have been opened. A meeting of the tender committee would now be convened within this week for the purpose of finalizing the award of contract for towing away the vessel," he said. 

A division bench comprising Justice A S Oka and Justice F M Reis were hearing a public interest litigation ( PIL) filed by the River Princess Hatao Manch complaining about the environmental damage that the stranded vessel had caused to the beach during the course of the past 10 years. The court heard the matter further on July 7.

The River Princess Hatao Manch (RPHM), a group of Sinquerim villagers, on Wednesday threw its hat into the ring for the removal of the grounded M V River Princess.
Calangute MLA Agnelo Fernandes, an active supporter of the RPHM submitted a letter to the Goa State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) at its meeting on Wednesday evening.
"RPHM has agreed to submit a similar offer to the state government as has Salgaocar Mining Industries Pvt Ltd (SMIPL). We will employ the same methods as SMIPL has stated. In fact, SMIPL has agreed to furnish a bank guarantee of 1 crore, however, RPHM is ready to submit a bank guarantee of 2 crore," Fernandes said, after the meeting concluded.

Earlier in the day, the advisory committee of the GSDMA met and discussed on 'Consent Terms' between SMIPL and the state government. RPHM convenor Fermino Fernandes and the Calangute MLA - both vehemently opposed this move by the government.
"Our offer is similar to that of Salgaocar and we are as competent as he is for the job. In fact, our offer is as risky to the environment as Salgaocar's. We fear that the situation of the grounded vessel will be more of a mess if SMIPL gets the removal job," the Calangute MLA said.
The RPHM, last week, said it will sue SMIPL for recovering damages caused to the properties of Sinquerim residents by the River Princess.
They have also decided to approach the high court in public interest so that government recovers costs incurred so far on protection measures undertaken for the Sinquerim beach as well cost of the ship's removal, if any, from SMIPL as per the Goa Tourist Places (Protection and Maintenance) Act, 2001.
On September 8, the Bombay High Court of Goa directed the state government to commence the ship's removal within two months from the date of the directive.
Around ten days ago, the GSDMA postponed its decision to award the tender for the ship's removal to either Titan Salvage or Madgavkar Salvage, after SMIPL sent a letter to chief minister Digambar Kamat; with sources disclosing that the company had indicated acceptance of the government's terms but still continue its offer to cut up the vessel for free.
IN 2002, River Princess ran aground off Sinquerim beach. At that time our marine firm, Madgavkar Salvage, offered the owners of the ship, M/s. Salgaonkar Mining Industries and the government to salvage the ship within 15 days at the cost of rupees one crore. Unfortunately, the offer was not considered since the owners were not interested and the government said they were leaving it to the owners to settle the matter. Besides, the vessel was not insured and the owners did not want to pay for its salvage.
In 2001, the government floated global tenders for the removal of the grounded vessel and we quoted for the tender, along with an international company called M/s Smit International Pvt. Ltd. Singapore. We both agreed to take the scrap of the wrecked ship as payment for our salvage work. The government awarded the work to Smit International in May 2002 because they quoted three months to complete the work which actually is impossible. We lost the tender because we asked for six months and said we would start work only after the monsoons because salvaging operations cannot be conducted during the rains. Subsequently, Smit International could not start the work immediately as promised and informed the government that they would start after the monsoons - that is in October 2002. The government did not agree to this delay and Smit International forfeited their deposit of Rs 10 lacs.
The government then floated a second tender in 2003 when our company again quoted along with a couple of Indian companies including M/s Smit International. However, M/s Smit International, this time, did not deposit any earnest money for the tender and were disqualified. The government agreed to give us the work if we were agreeable to start work in April 2003 and finish the work before the monsoons giving us just two months, April and May, before the monsoons arrived in June. Since this was an impossible feat, we informed the government that we will start the work in October of that year and complete the work by May 2004. The government didn’t agree to our proposal and instead cancelled the tender. The same farcical process started in 2005 but we refused to submit any further bids.
In 2006, the government again floated a tender and awarded M/s Crosschem International Pvt Ltd UK, who had absolutely no knowledge of marine salvaging. They failed miserably and pilfered important items and machinery from the vessel before their contract was terminated. In 2007, the government again floated a tender for the ship wreckage and, this time, awarded the work contract to M/s Jaisu Shipping Co. Pvt Ltd Gujarat to refloat the vessel. They promised to complete the work within a year. However, even after two years, when nothing was done by the company, the government terminated their contract. M/s Jaisu Shipping went to court and got a stay order stopping the government from terminating their contract and retendering the work. But, the government approached the court and obtained permission to float a tender for this work since they can only award it if the court agrees. But the government has not yet submitted the details to the court and therefore matters are still pending. Meanwhile, the River Princess deteriorated steadily with the onslaught of the sea and wind and developed a large number of holes and gigantic cracks besides destroying a large section of the beach, from Candolim to Sinquerim, eroding the surrounding land mass and causing huge environmental damage.
THE government is now planning to give the job to Singapore-based Company, M/s Titan Salvage as they promised to salvage the vessel by May 2011. They have told the government to dispose off the scrap of the vessel and have only quoted a daily hire basis for their machinery and equipment. They have also not agreed to the ‘no cure no pay’ terms and have not agreed to pay any penalty if they fail to complete the work in the stipulated time period.
Since the tender requires that the contractor disposes off the scrap of the wreck, M/s Titan Salvage should be compelled to abide by the rules and not go scot-free and burden the government with the disposal of scrap which is about 15,000-18,000 tonnes. However, in spite of M/s Titan Salvage’s refusal to comply with the rules of work tender, the government is still keen to award the tender to them. We must know the reason why the government is keen to award them the tender in spite of discrepancies and irregularities.
THE ship has broken up badly that there’s no chance of refloating it, with huge cracks and holes. It has also been mauled by miscreants for the last ten years and affected the delicate ecology of the place. It can only be broken and sold as scrap to scrap yards along the coastal belt; after all approx., 15,000-18,000 tonnes of scrap has to be lugged landwards which will be difficult operation.

Officials from Titan Salvage, Singapore, who have bagged the contract to remove the River Princess, arrived in Goa on Tuesday morning and held discussions with the advisory committee constituted under the Goa State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA). 

The advisory committee, chaired by the chief secretary, put forth a couple of clarifications before the Titan Salvage officials. However, the officials did not commit to the changes in the tender sought by the government, sources said. An official of Titan Salvage said that he would place the matter before his superiors in Singapore as there would be financial implications involved if there are any changes to the tender. 

However, he assured that he would get back to the state government within the next 8-10 days, sources told TOI. The advisory committee also briefed the Titan Salvage official about the current status of the River Princess, to which he replied that the company will undertake a fresh survey of the ship before commencing work. 

Meanwhile, the tourism department on Monday evacuated staff of Jaisu Shipping from the M V River Princess after they called for help, saying they felt unsafe on the ship. 

"They informed us that they felt unsafe on the ship. It may break into two pieces at any time, they said. They also said they have been hearing strange noises," a tourism official told TOI. It may be pointed out here that Jaisu Shipping has obtained a stay from the district court on the termination of its contract and the matter is presently before the high court. 

Tourism director Swapnil Naik said he took no chances and asked the Jaisu staff to submit some form of undertaking that they voluntarily wanted to leave the ship. 

"I asked them to give us a statement that they voluntarily want to disembark from the ship and that we are not forcing them to do so. Accordingly, they have given us a statement on camera. They were eight of them on board," Naik said. 

TOI on Sunday reported that the deck level on the mid-hull of the grounded vessel on Candolim beach has caved in, leaving a gaping hole on the ship's starboard side, raising possibilities that the vessel may further break up.
The case of the M.V. River Princess doesn’t look like it is going to get resolved any time soon, the main concern is if it gets too late then miles of coastline will be lost forever and it will cause irreversible ecological damage

1 comment: