In a daring and complex operation, a Seaking 42 C helicopter from the Eastern Naval Command winched down one MARCO officer on the ill-fated merchant vessel SSL KOLKATA which had been on fire since the last two days and abandoned by the 22 crew members on June 14, 2018 off the Sagar Island at the mouth of the Ganges Delta.
The Marine Commando Officer ascertained the conditions in the forward part of the ship and later called in the helicopter to lower onbord three crew members of the ship. The team managed to drop the starboard anchor from the ship to prevent her from drifting any further.
Thereafter the team prepared the seamanship gear for the ship to be towed if required.
The LIVE nature of the threat was evident from the explosion onboard in the forenoon which restarted the fire.
The helo skillfully recovered all four members of the team and is returning base for turnaround.
Earlier, VAdm Karambir Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command had directed that the ship drift towards the Sundarbans delta had to be stopped at all costs notwithstanding the high temperatures onboard to avoid an ecological disaster should the ship capsize on the sandbanks causing pollution from oil on board.
Accordingly, a Seaking 42C helicopter and a Dornier aircraft were despatched from Visakhapanam with a core team comprising divers, Marcos, shipwrights and seamanship specialists to stage through the IAF airbase at Kalaikonda.
Simultaneously, the Naval Officer-in-charge West Bengal laised with the officials of the DG Shipping, ICG, KOPT, the ship owners, Agents and Salvage specialists at Kolkata and kept them informed of the plans.
INS Kadmat which was exercising in the Bay of Bengal on 15 Jun 18 was directed to proceed at best speed and arrived on site at first light this morning ie 16 Jun 18 to augment the on site support wherein the ICG ships were also standing by.
The operation this morning has successfully managed to arrest further drift of the ship to enable salvage operations by the company.