Not yet RIP for River Princess

A fairly large chunk of the 19,361-tonne grounded vessel, River Princess, continues to lie in the seabed at Candolim beach, partly exposed and partly embedded, after removal of 11,300 tonnes of scrap from the vessel in May 2012, sources said.

Almost 12 years after the 240-metre long ore carrier ran aground 300 metres off the Sinquerim-Candolim seashore, the vessel was declared to have been removed by Mumbai-based Arihant Ship Breakers in May. The firm is to be paid Rs 99 crore for dismantling the ship.

"A large piece of the ship is still lying at the spot where the vessel had grounded," a source said. Fishermen and divers from the area have confirmed that metal can be seen partly exposed at the site. The ship's cutting helped recover about 60% of the ship's original weight and sources said a sizeable part of 40% of the unaccounted wreckage continues to be partly submerged in the sea bed.

National institute of oceanography (NIO), which surveyed the area last month submitted its report on Friday but the government is yet to reveal the findings. Most top tourism officials are in London for the world travel mart. Tourism department is the vessel's owner.

NIO scientists are not willing to comment about the findings. A representative of Arihant conceded that some debris may have remained at the site, but declined to comment further.

After Arihant had submitted its project completion report in May, the government had engaged Navi Mumbai-based marine survey company New Horizon Surveys to carry out a hydrographic survey to verify the ship breakers' claims. The data gathered by the firm was analyzed by national hydrographic office (NHO) and NIO experts, who raised several queries about the incomplete data.

"The correct geographic position of the vessel is not yet incorporated as discussed in the meeting in August," a report of the tourism department stated. Agreed an official, "The report was incomplete and did not have enough data for proper analysis by NHO Dehra Dun." Data was to be forwarded to Dehra Dun after NHO local office and NIO examined it.

Speculation is rife that part of the wreckage may have been stolen a few years back. Former MLA, Agnelo Fernandes had raised the issue in the assembly in the mid-2000s, alleging that activity during the night raised doubts about pilferage of the ship's metal.

Sources said cutting metal from the ship is not easy and requires much infrastructure to salvage and transport it from the site. "Pilferage and loss due to rust may have accounted for a small fraction of the missing 8,000-odd tonnes of the ship," a source said. [TOI]