June 10: A second ship sank at the mouth of the Hooghly in a month, sending giant logs rolling into the navigation channel and threatening movement of vessels.
About 300 logs, each about 30 feet long and 2-3 feet thick, broke loose from the cargo of a Belize ship around 8 am today and fell into the river at the same spot where the Segitiga Biru had sunk on May 16.
The crashing logs battered the ship’s side and possibly hit the hull, causing flooding in the engine room. A Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) spokesperson said the captain, Impoc Manuel, sent a distress call that the Fortune Carrier had tilted 12 degrees on its left side and water was gurgling into the engine room.
“The master informed us that he had failed in all efforts to get the ship’s generators and engine going as the ship was taking in water and requested evacuation,” the spokesperson said.
A navy vessel, INS Betwa, which was close to the sinking ship, rescued Manuel and his 19 crew members. “Our hovercraft has been despatched to the naval ship to bring the crew to Haldia,” the Coast Guard commandant in Haldia, R.K. Wadhwa, said.
Soon after, the Fortune Carrier sank and rested, partly exposed, on the sand about 202 km from Calcutta. It was the seventh ship to go down in the Sandheads, about 120 km downstream from Haldia, since 1997.
On its way from Penang in Malaysia to Diamond Harbour, the ship was carrying 1,728 logs and about 100 tonnes of diesel.
“Thirty per cent of the logs appear to have fallen overboard, which is a threat to navigation,” a Coast Guard statement said, adding that no oil slick had been spotted yet.
All incoming and outgoing ships have been warned to watch out for the logs, the CPT spokesperson said. “The mishap has not had any effect on the movement of traffic along the navigation channel.”
Sources said a tugboat, with senior officials on board, has set sail for the Sandheads to monitor the movement of the logs. Efforts would be made with the help of the Coast Guard’s Dornier aircraft to locate and recover the floating logs that could be a potential danger to passing ships and fishing trawlers.
The Fortune Carrier was 106 metres long from bow to stern and was carrying 5,203 cubic metres of logs, sources said.