The Bombay High Court on Tuesday allowed arrested vessel MV Karnika to be moved out of the port of Mumbai into safer waters considering the sheer size of the vessel and possible damage it may cause to other vessels anchored nearby as Cyclone Nisarga hits Maharashtra's coast today.
Justice AK Menon was hearing an application moved on behalf of MV Karnika in view of the forecast of Cyclone Nisarga making landfall near Mumbai at around 2 pm. The application was moved in the commercial admiralty suit filed by Monjasa DMCC against MV Karnika. The vessel was subjected to arrest by an order dated March 17, 2020.
Advocate S Priya appeared on behalf of the vessel MV Karnika and submitted that the vessel is a 14 decked passenger Cruise Ship and has about 63 crew members aboard. As per the meteorological reports assessed by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the Cyclone is fast approaching and the projected trajectory of the cyclone path indicates that it might cover the area of Mumbai region and other ports of Maharashtra while heading north towards Gujarat coast.
"The IMD report of June 1, 2020 also indicates the path of cyclone as moving across Maharashtra towards Gujarat. That being the case, the application made today is on the basis that considering the sheer size of the vessel she may be impacted by the cyclonic weather and may be damaged and run aground and probably cause immense damage to other vessels resulting MV Karnika also taking in water with disastrous consequences. This application is therefore seeking to permit the vessel to go out of Mumbai temporarily to safer waters, probably beyond territorial waters while under arrest and return after the cyclone has passed."
Adv Priya told the Court that the owners will file an undertaking to bring back the vessel into port of Mumbai once the cyclone has passed.
Advocate Deepak Motiwala appeared for the Mumbai Port Trust and also filed an application on behalf of the Port Trust and supported the case made out by Adv Priya. He agreed that the vessel because of its size poses a serious threat to several others in the port.
Court enquired from Adv Motiwala about the option of allotting a berth for the vessel. He submitted that it is extremely risky to bring the vessel into berth because once alongside, the strong currents driven by the weather will in all likelihood damage the berth and property of the port and other vessels. He opposed any such proposal and Justice Menon noted-
"Since he is aware of the dimensions of the vessel, I am inclined to accept Mr.Motiwala's submission. I understand that any number of tugs will not be able to control M.V.Karnika at the present location."
Adv Shyam Kapadia appeared on behalf of the plaintiffs and Adv Sinha for the caveators, both agreed to the course of action to move MV Karnika to safer waters on such conditions the court may impose.
However, Adv Sinha submitted that apart from the plaintiffs, who have claimed that there are several caveators who also seek to secure, along with the two plaintiffs, claims collectively worth about Rs.30 crores inclusive of the suit claims lie against the vessel. Thus, he submitted that plaintiffs have no objection if the aforesaid vessel is permitted to sail out to safer waters subject to condition as suggested.
Justice Menon refused to impose any conditions and noted-
"In view of the consent of the plaintiffs' Advocate and subject to the following conditions, which Ms. Priya on behalf of the owners undertakes to comply with , I am of the view that MV Karnika and her crew and others must not be imperiled and must permitted to leave for safer waters, as may be suggested by the Port Trust in consultation with the Master of the vessel so as to avoid the path of the cyclone."
Thus, Court permitted the temporary relocation of the said vessel on several conditions while under arrest. Most importantly, the Master of the Vessel, the Chief Officer/Staff the Chief Engineer were directed to surrender their passports by handing over the same to the pilot nominated by the Port Trust, who will board the ship in order to ensure safe pilotage out of the harbour and upon collecting the said passports, the same will be handed over promptly by the pilot to the Dy. Conservator who will retain them in safe custody.
Cyclone Nisarga made landfall at Alibagh around 1:30 pm on Wednesday
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