In one of the most challenging and critical operations that the Western Naval Command has put together in the past four decades to save civilian lives at sea, the Indian Navy has rescued 180 persons who were onboard Barge ‘P 305’, an accommodation barge of the State-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which capsized off Heera oil fields in Bombay High on Monday night. (The barge was adrift after it broke away from its moorings under the onslaught of the cyclone).
The search and rescue operations, which started on Monday afternoon, continued into Tuesday night for the remaining 93 persons who were onboard.
INS Kochi and INS Kolkata, which were spearheading the search and rescue operation along with a private vessel, Energy star, are now being supported by naval ships Beas, Betwa and Teg. The operation has been reinforced with deployment of long distance reconnaissance aircraft P-8I’s and naval helicopters.
P-305 being an accommodation barge had no engine to power it, and it hit one the oil rigs in the vicinity and there was ingress of water which saw the barge capsize on Monday night. What otherwise would have been a normal rescue operation, where life boats would be launched to rescue people, the wind speed and the sea swell because of the cyclone rendered such an operation nearly impossible.
Vice Admiral MS Pawar, deputy chief of Naval staff, said, “This by far has been the most challenging operation I have seen in the last four decades. Four Indian ships have been battling challenging weather conditions for the last 20 hours to rescue the people.”
The Indian Navy and the Coast Guard, in a coordinated effort, also rescued all the 137 people on board Barge ‘GAL Constructor’ which too was adrift after it broke away from its moorings.
Search and rescue efforts were also in progress off the coast of Gujarat for three vessels, namely, Support Station 3, Great Ship Aditi and Drill Ship Sagar Bhushan, which were 15-20 nautical miles south east off Pipavav on the Gujarat coast. INS Talwar has reached the area and has taken over the duties of 'On-Scene Coordinator,' said a Navy spokesperson.
The Western Naval Command, in coordination with the ONGC and the DG shipping, has also diverted five tugs to render assistance. Great Ship Aditi and Support Station 3 have been able to drop anchor. Meanwhile, OSV’s Samudra Sevak and SV Cheel have connected to manoeuvre Sagar Bhushan, and the situation for now appears to be stable.