This group tracks the responses of shipping industry towards environmental health concerns, highlights influence of shipping companies from EU, US and Japan etc on IMO and its Marine Environment Protection Committee & South Asian governments. It is keen to restore beaches in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to their pristine glory for the coming generations. For more information visit:,


Toxic ships are being dumped in India

MUMBAI: Discarded cargo vessel MV Wisdom that has run aground at Juhu beach has alarmed environmental groups which have demanded strict norms to prevent such ships from being dumped in Indian waters.

NGO ToxicWatch Alliance (TWA) has demanded that no ship under tow should be allowed to enter Indian waters between May 15 and August 15 due to inclement weather at that time.

Gopal Krishna, convener of TWA, said, "I suspect MV Wisdom was deliberately sent to affect the security of Indian ports. Many a time the monsoon is used as an excuse to dump condemned vessels in Indian waters."

He said transnational shipping companies are trying to turn most of the condemned vessels into under-tow vessels which are quite risky for Indian navigation.

Krishna said, "No ship, whether for dismantling or for shipping, should be allowed in Indian waters without the name of port of registry, name and address of shipowner, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) registered owner identification number and IMO company identification number. Unless this is done, no seller will be traceable."

TWA demanded that before allowing the salvage operation, the documents of ownership of the vessel must be verified by the Directorate General of Shipping, as the Customs expressed inability to verify the genuineness of these documents as per the report of the standing monitoring committee of the ministry of environment and forests.

He said as per the Supreme Court order dated October 2003, the authorities should check whether the ship had been decontaminated prior to its export. Krishna said, "The vessel should not be allowed to be dismantled where it is grounded."

The Singapore-flagged, MV Wisdom was towed by Seabulk Plover from Colombo to the Alang ship-breaking yard in Gujarat.

On June 11, its towing cable snapped and the cargo vessel drifted towards the Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL) before running aground at Juhu beach.

Debi Goenka of the Conservation Action Trust said, "The authorities should ensure that they are able to tow away the ship intact. Since the ship was discarded, it did not have fuel in its tanks, but there is always a fear of residual oil and sludge being present that can contaminate the coastal waters and marine life."

Manthan K Mehta,
The Times of India
Jun 15, 2011

No pollution threat off Mumbai coast from stranded ship: Vasan
Jun 14,2011

Hyderabad, Jun 14 (PTI) Government today said there was no threat either of pollution or damage to Bandra-Worli Sealink due to the stranded merchant ship off Mumbai.However, the Directorate General (Shipping) and Coast Guard are monitoring the situation closely as the salvage team is unable to board the ship because of bad weather, Union Minister for Shipping G K Vasan said. "There is no threat of pollution or threat to the Sealink. It is an empty ship without any cargo or bunkers," the minister told reporters after attending the 13th Maritime States Development Council Meeting here.

The 175m-long and a 10,000 DWT vessel cargo ship M V Wisdom, which was being towed away by foreign merchant vessel `Seabulk Plover' to Alang from Colombo for scrap, drifted towards Mumbai coast on June 11 after the rope broke due to bad weather. The Minister said the Directorate General of Shipping is closely monitoring the situation and has engaged M/s SMIT, a salvage firm to asses the situation.

"Directorate General (Shipping) and Coast Guard are monitoring the situation closely. The SMIT team is not able to board the ship because of bad weather. Efforts are being made to board the ship from helicopter and to explore the possibility of refloating it," Vasan said. According to media reports, MV Wisdom had drifted dangerously close to the Bandra-Worli Sealink and there was a threat of it hitting the pillars of the iconic structure. PTI

Grounded ship: Will Wisdom prevail?
By Pandurang Mhaske
Mumbai |
MV Wisdom will be grounded at Juhu beach for at least a month, before being towed away for disposal, according to sources in the directorate general of shipping.

They said that there is a strong possibility of the ship being towed away rather being dismantled in situ. During this period, they hope the imminent high tides will allow smaller vessels or tug it or come closer to the shore and take away the 16,000 tonne ship.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is putting pressure to take appropriate action against the vessel owner and fix the responsibility of disposal on them.

According to Maritime laws, the ship can be stranded without permission at one place for a certain period only, after which DG Shipping can initiate action against the owner. “The owners of MV Wisdom have been informed by the authorities to arrange for professional salvers to move the ship from Juhu Beach” an officer from DG Shipping said.

Mumbai Police has been asked to investigate the matter and identify the crew members of the vessels. The task has been assigned to Yellow Gate police. The police station has registered a complaint against the owners of MV Wisdom and the tug vessel and an inquiry is underway. The police are investigating how and why the vessel got stranded on Juhu Beach.

“There are possibilities of the captain and the crew of tug MV Seabulk Plover being arrested in the coming days,” said Chandrakant Naik, senior police inspector of Yellow Gate police station.

In all, the crew of the tug consists of 15 members, most of whom are Russian nationals, while one is from Ghana.

MV Wisdom had lost its tow, MV Seabulk Plover, on Saturday afternoon and had drifted towards Mumbai. There was a threat of it colliding with the iconic Bandra Worli Sea Link, but fortunately it ran aground at Juhu Beach by 7.30 pm.

Officials can’t decide what to do with Wisdom

Yogesh Naik
June 14, 2011
The state government and various agencies are still groping in the dark as they try and deal with the question of what to do with MV Wisdom, the cargo ship that ran aground off Juhu beach.

The Director General of Shipping has issued a notice to the owners of MV Wisdom to remove the ship from Juhu beach.

“We have asked a salver to do a survey. The ship is stuck in the sand and not between rocks. It requires a few tugs with strong ropes,” said S D Agnihotri, director general of shipping. But the Coast Guard differs on how to remove the ship from the spot.

Coast Guard Regional Operations and Plans officer Arun Singh said, “The easiest and most cost effective way is to cut the ship with the help of professional salvers and take it away from here.”

In 1997, another ship, Zheng Dong, with nearly 250 metric tonnes of oil washed ashore off Carter Road. Some hoteliers had plans to convert it into a hotel, but locals opposed this and moved the High Court which ordered that it should be removed.

The removal of MV Wisdom is being looked after by DG Shipping and MbPT

The suburban collectorate at Bandra too had stepped in and issued notices to the owners not to set up a floatel or a hotel amidst mangroves.

This time, Collector Nirmal Deshmukh said that MV Wisdom could be pulled out of the sand using tugs. “Technology has improved since 1998 when the Zheng Dong was cut off at Bandra.”

However, the state environment department does not think the ship is a threat or could spark off an ecological disaster. “She has only four metric tonnes of oil. Besides, the removal of the ship is being looked after by the DG Shipping and Mumbai Port Trust,” said a senior government officer.

There have been no meetings at the state level to tackle the problem, though Juhu residents have registered protests. “The place has turned into a sightseeing spot. But we will not allow the salvers to break the ship at Juhu beach. We dont want to turn the beach into the Alang shipbreaking yard,” said Adolf D’Souza, corporator from Juhu.

The 9,000 tonne vessel was being towed from Colombo to Alang when the cables connecting it to the tug MV Seabulk Plover broke.

The MV Wisdom fiasco: The story gets murkier and murkier
June 14, 2011
Veeresh Malik
The mystery behind what the 36-year-old Anchor Handling Tug (AHTS) Seabulk Plover, with the 26-year-old container ship MV Wisdom, due for scrapping, was actually doing along the Indian coast for almost two weeks before the container ship landed up on the beach off Juhu, now begins to deepen

Yesterday, we had questioned why container ship MV Wisdom, which was being towed to the Alang junk yard, obtained permission to sail so close to the Mumbai coast and the sensitive Bombay High oil installation. (Why was the MV Wisdom allowed to get so near the Bandra-Worli Sea Link? ).

First of all, here are some facts, as known, and re-verified:

Vessel's Details
Ship Type: Tug
Year Built: 1975
Length x Breadth: 66mx13m
Deadweight: 759 tonnes
Speed recorded (Max /Average): 10/ 9 knots
Flag: St Vincent Grenadines [VC]
Call Sign: J8SE
IMO: 7401332, MMSI: 376054000

Last Position Received
Area: Indian Ocean
Latitude / Longitude: 6.797163° / 79.62228° (Map)
Currently in Port:
Last Known Port:
Info Received: 14d 17h 59min 48s ago
Not Currently in Range
Itineraries History
Voyage Related Info (Last Received)
Draught: 4.8 m
Destination: COCHIN
ETA: 2011-05-31 07:30
Info Received: 2011-05-30 09:56 (14d, 20h 22min 2s ago)

Translated, that means the tug-tow combo was off Colombo for days, till around forenoon on 30th May. After that, the combo set course towards India, but more importantly and interestingly, simply stopped updating her positions anymore. Why was she hanging around outside Colombo, if her sale to the Alang breakers had already been decided months ago? Yes, the reasons could have been commercial, but with the monsoon breaking, it would have made more sense to move on towards the eventual destination-just ahead of the really bad weather.

Incidentally, that "000" in her MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity, or the satellite communication identity) number means that she had some very powerful radio equipment onboard, as well as qualified specialist radio operators, not uncommon for tugs of her sort-but also in no uncertain way making it very clear that people onboard knew what reporting they were supposed to make, and had the equipment to do so too. No excuses on this account. It would be very interesting to get hold of a log of her normal communications, which by rights would have been monitored in not just India but at multiple stations worldwide. And copies retained onboard. Unless destroyed. Which is also known to happen.

Here are some details from this site:

Daily Vessel's Itineraries

The update on positions comes to an abrupt end on the 30th of May.

This business of updating positions is directly related also to the vessel's identification signals broadcast all the time, as a regulation, and especially when within territorial waters or close to traffic lanes. That the Seabulk Plover & Wisdom were not doing so would have been noticed by any ship or coast station. Such a huge target, especially a ship in ballast and riding high, would be easily visible from a coast radar station for a distance of over 100km-120km and from other ships for a distance of around at least 50km, if not more. And not providing identity signals would have been observed by any of the many naval and civil station en route. What action did any of them take?

Now the question arises: did none of them relay information to anybody about an unknown tug-tow combo on the high seas without their AIS (Automatic Identification System) on? Or was there something else? Yes, ships are known to switch off their AIS as well as other identity signals, especially if they are in high-piracy areas, because in such cases it is a part of the anti-piracy measures. But they do not switch off their AIS along the areas with heavy traffic, like the Indian coast. And not if challenged by the authorities over radio-on comes the identity signal transmission, otherwise one of those many Coast Guard or Navy planes or choppers is supposed to investigate.

The next surprise is that on departing Colombo, the tug & tow combo gave their destination as "Cochin", but records available online do not show them as having visited Cochin Port. Certainly, it is possible that they did not enter the port, and simply steamed past slowly or they may have even stopped for stores and supplies-but then, did they report themselves to the Maritime authorities? This information is not available on the Cochin Port Trust website anymore.

Likewise, there is no report of any such report being made while passing Mangalore or Mormugao, the other two big ports en route. The Mumbai Port Trust website, likewise, does not show anything. It is likely, however, that they may have made their reports to these ports as they steamed past, and this information is simply not updated in the public domain, unlike in the rest of the world.

Here's what the existing rules, circulars and notices say. The last one issued by the DG (Directorate General) of Shipping on the subject of tugs and tows in Indian territorial waters is dated-it goes back to 1974. The world has changed since then, but our authorities have not bothered to update things, which, very simply, would require any ship under tow as well as the towing vessel to jointly and separately report to the coastal state, in this case India, in whose territorial waters they are entering.

All that is needed is a simple "Notice to Mariners", to start with, which instructs all special category ships entering Indian territorial waters to report in to the authorities, and then follow instructions, or stay clear. Something like this is done, for example, when testing rockets and missiles, even over international waters-and people on ships follow these notices and rules. It is as simple as that. It is done all the time.

Here are a few related links:

Yes, all vessels are entitled to the right of free and innocent passage through territorial waters. Submarines have to do so on the surface, warships of other countries have certain protocol, nuclear ships and merchant ships carrying certain types of cargo have to follow certain specific guidelines. That is what it has been like for decades, and nobody is challenging that, especially if the foreign ships are "seaworthy".

However, in this case, the ship under tow is not seaworthy. And there, the freedom of the seas and rights of innocent passage through our territorial waters come to a grinding halt.

The DG Shipping has to answer, in the first instance, why this has not been done all these years. Everything else will follow.

(Veeresh Malik is a qualified mariner and writer. He is also consulting editor with Sailor Today).

Why was the MV Wisdom allowed to get so near the Bandra-Worli Sea Link?
June 13, 2011

Did the container ship being towed to the Alang junk yard have permission to sail so close to the coast and sensitive Bombay High oil installation? Who plotted her course? And how come nobody interrupted her voyage

There is now a new landmark off the coast in Bandra, in suburban Mumbai, that joins another outside the Otters Club there, and the city should consider itself lucky that it did not float onto the signature Bandra-Worli Sea Link. It is the MV Wisdom, a 26-year-old container ship, which in the course of its lifecycle has been blessed with 14 name changes, and nobody knows how many owners.

As a matter of fact, the real beneficiary owner of the ship is still not known, at least not officially. Who the real owners and financiers of this ship are will, ofcourse, be known to all and sundry in the by-lanes and backstreets of Mumbai's Ballard Estate. This is the kind of published information, incidentally, which can cause the untimely demise of journalists; or others too, as we have seen recently again. So we stay out of that aspect, though it is certainly important, especially in this day and age of scams linked to stolen assets, hidden in tax havens, appearing in other industries like international sports events, offshore oil exploration, and telecom. This article tries to answer some of the simpler questions.

The first simple question that arises is, what was this rust-bucket, junk, unseaworthy vessel doing so close to Mumbai in the first place. The next question is, who plotted courses so far inland from what the actual course on a voyage from Colombo to Alang should have been. And, certainly, why was she inland of the oil rigs and security establishments in and around Bombay High? Mariners cannot even begin to think of the damage she would have caused if she had gone adrift near Bombay High.

MV Wisdom started life in faraway Hamburg, back in 1984-85, as the container ship Olandia. She bounced around the world with a variety of names, flags and despondent owners as well as charterers. These names often saw a repeat of the name Olandia, but also included Ocean Spirit, Contship Canada, City of Leeds, Oocl Pudong, Vietnam Star, Moringia, India Star, QC Wisdom and finally, Wisdom. Through all this, she bore a constant IMO (International Maritime Organisation) number - 8417558. As a small container ship, logging around 700 TEU, she would eventually see service as a feeder and an uneconomical one at that. Scrapping, therefore, would be a natural outcome.

Rule paramount which is drilled into our heads right in the beginning of our training is: All seaworthy merchant ships have a right of innocent passage through non-inland waters worldwide. However, a ship headed for scrapping, either under her own power or tow, does not come close to land or coast, as far as possible, for multiple reasons. If she does, then she needs to inform the authorities, who will then decide if she is to be provided with what is known as "the right to innocent passage" guaranteed to all seaworthy ships of all nations. Because a ship headed for scrapping is not seaworthy. And if a national authority wishes to, it can certainly deny her the right of innocent passage through her territorial waters, till a point where she has to enter the territorial waters for scrapping, or with precautions to prevent exactly what happened with the Wisdom.

In other words, the Wisdom should simply have stayed far away from India's territorial waters, until she was right off Alang, where she was reportedly destined for, and then made an entry in as direct and straight a course as possible. That is what her entry permissions into India should have stated in the first case.

The first convention that the MV Wisdom broke is that her tug and she entered India's territorial waters knowingly, and consciously, despite being very unseaworthy. We need to know and find out if she sought the required permissions to do so, or just barged right in, and then meandered close to Bandra, subsequently. A tug tow breaking in the monsoons, especially when towing an empty unmanned dead ship with high windage, is not something the authorities should have permitted right off Mumbai. One can, therefore, only presume that she was right off our coast, by some reports just four miles off, without any permissions or clearances. It would have to be total deliberate criminal negligence if permissions were given to this movement, in the way described, with just one tug that seemingly gave up after the towing arrangement snapped.

If she was in any other country, the authorities would have insisted that she had backup arrangements, at least two tugs for the tow and a third one on standby, and very regular monitoring of the situation.

Now, a dead ship under tow is not some sort of high-speed boat, it is more like a very slow combo chugging and struggling along at a speed not exceeding 3-4 knots (about 6-8 kmph), at best, if not even slower. In this sort of weather it would have taken more than a few days just to cross Mumbai harbour, assuming she came close to the coast past Goa, and then along the Raigad/Kolaba coast. She would have been picked up on every small and large shore radar screen, every naval and coast-guard ship, every offshore supply vessel on duty in and around the Bombay High platforms, and even the radars on the platforms and rigs. Most of all, despite the heavy seas and monsoons, she would have been visible to the naked eye from more than a dozen light-houses along the coast, including assorted naval batteries.

In addition, every other ship underway in and around the area would have picked her up on their radar screens, and stayed miles away. Any ship at anchor that this combo came within miles of would either raise anchor and flee, or raise a strong protest on the radio to the tug as well as the port authorities. As seafarers, we know how unpredictable and dangerous such derelicts under tow can be, and it is just not worth it being anywhere near them. Anywhere would mean that if I was on another ship, I would keep a very safe distance, which means steer at least five miles clear distance away, regardless, even more if I was a tanker or other kind of big ship.

Every one of them would have seen a double-blip on their screens. Any one of them could have challenged the tug-ship tow on simple VHF radio, and asked them to move further from shore, as well as establish identity. Every one of them could have filed a report with the many radio and marine stations all along the coast, of a tug and tow operating too close to the coast and representing a possible hazard. It is likely that some did, but whether they did or not is unknown; and even if they did, what happened next would be unknown. Something similar happens when un-roadworthy trucks are winked past on our roads, to give you an idea of what really may have happened, since there is no other logical reason why nobody seems to be aware of what was happening till this 13,000 tonner landed up aiming for the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.

The grapevine is, with hindsight, that this was a deliberate attempt to push a ship on to the Sea Link. Grapevine is seldom reliable and it does seem far-fetched, but it is an angle that will need to be investigated. If those who are investigating can find the real owners, that is.

The bigger issue, however, is that the Indian coast is rapidly becoming a dump yard for the junks and overage ships. And the Wisdom is just another example of this malaise; the solution to which has been debated and written about repeatedly, but never implemented, for a variety of reasons.

For all the coastline we have, our authorities have simply been unable to put up a simple Vessel Tracking System (VTS) along the coast, and appear to be nowhere near to doing so either. The bigger issue that the Wisdom brings out with shocking precision is simply that despite all the fuss after the 26/11 attacks by boat from Karachi, our coastline is as open as it was. Never mind small fishing boats, huge ships like the Wisdom can sail through, without being stopped or challenged. Think about it.

And if you challenge this too much, then you are in danger of meeting the same fate as other journalists who dig too deep, into matters pertaining to anything which might upset the status quo, of what really happens in offshore India. Or, being called "anti-national", as this writer has been, lately.

(Veeresh Malik is a qualified mariner and writer. He is also consulting editor with "Sailor Today".)


  1. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you.

    Maritime Courses India

  2. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

    Maritime Courses India