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Shipping lanes remain closed by India oil spill

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
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Consequences of oil spill mount
  • Shipping lanes off Mumbai may be closed for another two days
  • The slick caused by two vessels colliding on Saturday
  • Listing Panamanian vessel now stabilized say authorities
  • About 200 liters of oil had leaked out says India's shipping ministry

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- Shipping lanes off India's commercial hub Mumbai may be closed for another two days because of an oil spill caused by two vessels colliding Saturday, say Indian authorities.

The grounded vessel from which oil had been spilling off India's western coast is under control, authorities said Tuesday.

The slick occurred after a Panamanian-flagged ship collided with another from St. Kitts and Nevis on Saturday.

The collision left the Panamanian vessel tilting in the water, although it has now been stabilized with no more oil leaking from containers on its deck, according to S.S. Dasila, an Indian coast guard commandant.

Video: Ships collide, port closed
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Helicopters and airplanes have dropped chemicals to break up the slick, in what he said has been a successful exercise. Some fuel, Dasila added, might have swept ashore because of a high tide.

"But the situation is not alarming," he said. Late Monday, India's shipping ministry noted that about 200 liters (about 52 gallons) of oil had leaked out since Saturday's crash.

Officials say the Panamanian ship had 2,662 tons of heavy oil in its various tanks and another 245 tons of diesel for its own use.

Vessel owners have hired salvagers as tugs and floating cranes are being used to pluck containers from the sea. Indian shipping authorities said pollution control officials and agencies involved in drawing water from Mumbai's harbors were on alert.

However, sea traffic remains suspended on the channel because some sunken oil tanks have been spotted causing obstructions on the navigational route, Dasila said.

It may take two days to reopen the Mumbai channels to ships, he added.

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Shipping traders warn of huge losses because of the shutdown of port operations.

R. Venkatesh, vice-president of the Western India Shippers Association, said eleven ships were stranded at one of the two closed harbors while 12 others were waiting to dock. Some vessels, he added, have been diverted to neighboring Gujarat state to dock.

The closed Jawharlal Nehru Port (JNP) in Mumbai is billed as India's busiest for handling up to 60 percent of the nation's container volumes. S.N. Maharana, an operations manager at the JNP, said the port has stopped taking bookings temporarily.