Kendrapara: Nine years have passed after the Mongolian cargo ship MV Black Rose sank off Paradip Port September 9, 2009. But the ship has neither been dismantled nor has the authorities concerned shown any interest in removing its wreckage.
The capsized ship is still lying in the sea and not a single person has been punished for the mishap, although the Paradip marine police and the Crime Branch had filed a case, and the CBI had launched a probe last July.
The ship sank due to a technical snag with 23,843 tonnes of iron ore and 947 tonnes of furnace oil around six km from the breakwater of Paradip Port.
It had 27 crew members. The Paradip port authorities, the marine police and the Coast Guard managed to rescue 26 of the crew members, including 17 Bangladeshis, three Russians and six Ukrainians. The rescuers failed to find Chief Engineer Oleksander Ilyushchenko. The Coast Guard found his body after a week.
In November 2010, responding to a PIL, the High Court had directed the then Collector of Jagatsinghpur to take possession of MV Black Rose as “receiver of the wreck” and proceed with salvage operations.
The petitioner had stated in the PIL that the incident posed a grave danger to an extensive part of the environment off the Odisha coast due to oil spill and a serious threat to the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary and the Bhitarkanika National Park.
The ship’s wreck, four nautical miles off the coast, is now functioning as an artificial breakwater. It affects flow patterns of the sea, and can disrupt the long shore sediment transport rate (LSTR), leading to erosion of the beach, experts said.
A HC division bench had also directed the Director General of Shipping to provide expert assistance and funds to the Collector of Jagatisnghpur as per the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, for salvaging the ship, after a PIL was filed by Guru Prasad Mohanty, Secretary of Peoples Union of Civil Liberties, seeking judicial intervention.
The cost of clearing the debris is estimated at Rs 120 crore, while the ship scrap would hardly fetch Rs 4 crore. The port trust submitted a report regarding this to the shipping ministry.
No conclusive report on the cause of the ship’s sinking has come out even though many probe teams have probed the incident. The agencies which probed the mishap are the National Shipping Board, the state Crime Branch, marine police and the district administration. The Crime Branch ended its probe by blaming the owner of the vessel.
There are speculations that Crime Branch tried to shield some influential persons, said Bhuban Mohan Jena, former trustee of Paradip Port Trust.
Jena and another former trustee Pratap Mishra submitted a representation to Paradip Port Trust Board in July 2016 demanding that it should write to the Ministry of Shipping for an inquiry by a Central agency as the ship had come with forged documents.
Later, the PPT board recommended the representation in September 2016 to the Ministry of Shipping. Jena too wrote a letter to Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan demanding a CBI probe.
In July 2018, Shankar Choudhury, Under Secretary, Ministry of Shipping, wrote a letter to CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma to find out the reasons for the vessel’s sinking.
Jena said CBI has started investigations, and collected the terms of reference of the case.
Marine police filed a case October 10, 2009 against ship owner Singapore-based Black Rose Maritime Ltd, Pacmar Shipping Private Ltd and the Hong Kong-based hirer of the ship Devi Trading Co Ltd.
Regarding the charges of fabricated insurance papers and other documents to anchor the ship in Paradip port, then Secretary of Paradip Port Trust, Pravat Kumar Nanda, lodged an FIR at marine police station.
The case was handed over to Crime Branch in December 2009. The Crime Branch had earlier chargesheeted Kok Sitki, owner of Singapore-based Black Rose Maritime Ltd.
During the investigation it was found that the ship was operating without a maritime licence, and that the insurance and fitness papers were forged.
Sitki, had doctored the documents of another vessel named Toros Pearl and submitted them to the port authorities. So Crime Branch had framed a chargesheet against him. But as he is a Singaporean he has to be extradited. Crime Branch had earlier sent Letters Rogatory (formal request to foreign agency) seeking assistance.
The extradition of Sitki has been delayed with the authorities of the country seeking clarifications. In October 2014, the JMFC court of Kujang had issued a notice for his extradition.
The offence committed by the ship owner is punishable under Singapore law too. They sought details to examine it. The Crime Branch has taken up the matter with Interpol.
A case on the sunken ship is pending before the Kolkata High Court, and another case is pending in a Singapore court.
Similarly, Sea Trans Private Ltd, Kolkata, had filed a case against the owner of Black Rose in the London Court of International Arbitration for submitting fake documents to operate the cargo carrier.