KARACHI, Oct 9: Any delay in launching an operation to salvage the barge carrying about 70 metric tonnes of furnace oil, that has capsized off the coast of Karachi could cause a considerable oil slick across a vast portion of sea around the scene of the mishap, said marine sources on Monday.

The barge, Orion-1, a locally built vessel meant for transportation of oil, has a designed capacity of carrying 200 tonnes of oil. It capsized about three nautical miles off Manora in the Arabian Sea on Friday.

The five-men crew of the barge, which had brought the oil for some ship anchored in the limits of the Port Qasim, was rescued safely by KPT and other boats.

A source visiting the spot said that the position of the sunken ship, with its front portion being above water level, was not very much secure in the open sea and possibility of the oil containers inside or some portion of the ship itself ripping apart could not be ruled out.

“It would be in the fitness of things if the ship is salvaged or put to its right position at the earliest. Otherwise, the leaking tanks may start spilling oil in larger quantity and this may pose a serious threat to marine life and ecology,” the source added.

It is learnt that the oil stored in four of the six tanks of the barge has been spilling in minimal quantity through the restrictive valves for a couple of days. The Defence Housing Authority and Chief Secretary of Sindh have already cautioned citizens of the possible adverse effects of the slick, advising them to avoid visiting the beach or consuming seafood until withdrawal of the advisory.

When contacted, KPT Director (Administration) Brig Shahid Saleem told Dawn that two salvage experts from Holland had arrived here on Sunday and were busy reviewing the situation. KPT authorities have been holding meetings with the experts, along with the barge owner Malik Qutub, on Monday.

Brig Shahid said that as soon as the options and plans were received from the Dutch expert, steps for launching the salvage operations would be taken on a top priority basis. “It may take about a week to start salvaging the ship,” he said, adding that one of the options was to get the oil transferred from the barge before trying to pull it above the water level.

Another source said that KPT divers or others were yet to conduct under water investigations. It is apprehended that about 8-10 tonnes of oil had already spilled into the sea which is rough these days.

Arshad Yahya Usmani, Manager of the KPT’s Marine Pollution Control Department, shrugged of fear of pollution or threat to marine life. “Our teams have surveyed the beaches from the NIO point to Kinara Restaurant and beyond, and have reported that the seas side is free from oil slick,” he said.

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