Arihant Ship Breakers made an oral request to the state government to release 30% of its payment after which it will clear the vessel's remains that lie underwater off Candolim beach, sources said.
Sources told TOI that directors from the Mumbai-based company arrived in Goa last week and met government officials concerned. Sources added that Arihant has claimed that "it has almost gone broke" due to the River Princess project. "The company has borrowed money from the market, taken loans, hired different agencies during the work process," a source said.
A source at Arihant said the request was merely verbal. "We will come up with a fresh proposal to the government shortly. Our commitment to removing the remains of the ship remains," the source said.
Asked about the company's financial position, vis-a-vis completing the process of removing the remains of the ship, a company official said, "We will manage our finances."
Tourism director Nikhil Desai said the government will stick to the contract's clauses. "We have a 'No cure, no pay' clause in the contract and we won't be deviating from it," he told TOI.
TOI learns that there was a disagreement between the Arihant directors on the issue in May. "Some directors said the company should go ahead and submit the letter that the work was complete, while others said the company should verify that the work was complete and then submit a letter. The decision was taken in favour of the majority," sources said.
The source at Arihant told TOI that the company had submitted a letter to the state government in May, 2012, stating that the work had been completed, but there was a possibility of some parts of the ship still remaining underwater. "We told the government to conduct a survey and let us know at the earliest after which we would clear the remains," the official said.
"The government did not revert to us. Instead, it conducted a survey without informing us and without our presence. We have been hearing about what is happening through other sources. We need an official report from the government. Once we get it, we will put up a fresh proposal at the next meeting with the government," the Arihant source said.
Asked about this, a tourism department official said, "The National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) report was in public domain. We wanted an independent survey done and there was no need to have the party concerned present. It is not the tourism department who has to revert back to Arihant with the official report but the monitoring committee headed by the revenue secretary. It is now up to Arihant to prove the report wrong. We could have understood if there were small pieces of the ship remaining, but not such major portions of the ship."
The NIO website states that it has conducted a geophysical survey off Candolim beach between October 25 to 31, 2012, to investigate existence of metallic debris, where the River Princess was grounded, at the request of tourism department. The survey comprised of bathymetric, magnetic, sonographic and sub-bottom profiling. This was further backed up by underwater diving operations.
"Integrated interpretation of geophysical data supported by visual observations clearly show the presence of large remnants of a grounded ship at water depths approximately between 3 and 10 metres located off Candolim beach, where River Princess is known to have been grounded. While the penetration of the wreck into seabed could not be ascertained, a large part of the metallic structure is found to be exposed to water, protruding several feet above the seabed," the NIO report stated. [TOI]