Finally, operation to salvage coal cargo from bottom of Pashur commences
11 November 2015, Nirapad News: A full two weeks after MV Zia Raj capsized in the Pashur river of the Sundarbans, the operation to salvage its coal-laden cargo finally got underway on Tuesday.
Although the harmful coal cargo – the ship was carrying 510 tonnes when it started from Mongla Port -was said to be intact for a number of days initially, by now a large amount of the coal briquettes have been spilled into the river, posing a threat to the biodiversity of the world’s largest mangrove forest.
A 14-member team deployed by private salvage operator Bhai Bhai Salvage is engaged in the operation, hired by the owner of the capsized vessel. They are using compressors and iron pipes to generate air thrust in the stack of coal inside the sunken cargo.
The operation to get the coal out will take about 10 days, according to members of the salvage team. And then lifting out MV Zia Raj might take another 20 days.
Private vessel owners must arrange the salvage operation on their own, if their vessels sink. This is often causing inordinate delays, as the private owners take their time, waiting on better deals or just finding a suitable operator.
Mahbubur Rahman, an official of the salvage operator said one of their vessels reached the spot earlier on November 5 and carried out the preparatory work for the main salvage operation, that commenced once two more vessels reached the area on Tuesday morning.
The lifting of the sunken coal stack now involves lifting huge amounts of water as well, which are then deposited together in a salvage fleet vessel’s cargo. Some of the coal-mixed water could be seen spilling back into the river, and acknowledged by Mahbubur Rahman.
Forest Department officer of Chandpai Range of the Sundarbans East Zone Gazi Motiar Rahman said forest officials have been maintaining a vigil on the spot ever since the capsize.
He also admitted that coal-mixed water, besides chunks of coals and coal briquettes, have been freely spilling into the river.
Officials have already collected water samples from around the spot for testing, Motiar added. More water was collected from the area on Tuesday, but results of the samples collected earlier already showed drops in the oxygen and pH level, according to Md Saidul Islam, another Forest Department (FD) officer.
The FD has also collected samples of the coal from the capsized ship, to assess its mineral content and learn what sort of harm to expect.
A three-member probe body of the department has submitted its report to the Divisional Forest Officer, where the blame has been squarely placed on the ineptitude of the ship’s master and his crew.
Assistant Conservator of Forest (Chandpai Range) M Belayet Hossain, who headed the probe, said it also recommended an immediate halt to all vessels’ use of routes passing through the Sundarbans.
MV Raj Sinha capsized after being hit by another vessel and getting stuck against a shoal. Locals rescued 10 crew members as their vessel capsized.