Some ships start moving from Mumbai port after closure due to collision of 2 vessels

MUMBAI, India (AP) — The Indian navy on Thursday began moving merchant ships in and out of a major Mumbai port that was closed after two vessels collided and spilled containers, fuel and lubricants into the Arabian Sea, an official said.

The Jawahar Lal Nehru port had been closed since Saturday because nearly 300 containers had been tossed overboard during the collision, posing a navigational hazard.

Using helicopters, minesweepers and sonar equipment, the navy created a safe channel in the sea and escorted seven ships out of the Mumbai harbor and brought in five vessels waiting to be berthed there, said Capt. Manohar Nambiar, a defense ministry spokesman.

Another five merchant ships were to be escorted out of the harbor later Thursday, Nambiar told The Associated Press.

Mumbai on India's west coast is the country's financial hub.

The containers had fallen off the MSC Chitra, which ran aground and has been listing heavily following the collision. It spilled nearly 500 tons of its fuel and lubricants before the leaks were plugged Monday. The second ship, the MV-Khalijia-II, suffered less damage.

"In view of the relatively rough position of the sea near the site, an attempt to stabilize the ship and pump fuel oil has not been started yet," said a Maharashtra state government statement on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the salvers SMIT International, Singapore, recovered 15 containers from the sea.

The statement said the ship's owner reported about 200 of the more than 500 containers on board were empty.

The government statement said analysis of water samples so far showed no contamination from hazardous chemicals like sodium hydroxide or pesticides.

However, oil has been sighted ashore in Mumbai, affecting mangroves in some areas.

Nearly 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms) of fish samples in the area were contaminated with oil. Authorities have stepped up sample testing the quality of the fish catch, the statement said.

The state authorities have banned fishing in the area until Aug. 15.