Thursday 01 June 2023

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How an Off-Shore Casino came On-Shore


'Lucky 7's anchor and chain remain somewhere in the channel. If not salvaged, it may collide with a barge after the sand bar opens on 15 September, causing another shipwreck, says ASHWIN TOMBAT.

Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardessai's wish has come true already. Goa's latest — but certainly not greatest — casino is now well and truly on the land (see photo). The ship, which is named 'M V Lucky 7', may prove to be extremely unlucky for citizens of Panaji. If not removed immediately, it may well lead to the destruction of the iconic Miramar Beach.

The grandly named 'Golden Globe Hotels Pvt Ltd' has hired Arihant Ship Breakers, the company that removed the grounded 'M V River Princess' from Candolim beach many years ago. This is of little comfort. The salvage company has a very dodgy record.

It bid for removing the entire debris of the 'River Princess'. But actually, it only removed the visible parts of the wreck up to the waterline. The company then falsely claimed that the contract was complete. But a survey by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) revealed substantial debris still remained to be removed...

Arihant Ship Breakers then had to resume operations. In this second round of salvage, it removed the ship's debris up to the sea bed. Even now, up to a quarter of the hull of the 'River Princess' remains buried eight metres deep in the sandy sea bed off Candolim. The company's history in Goa does not inspire much confidence.

In fact, 'Lucky 7's' owner, former Haryana Minister Gopal Kanda, does not seem to hire the right kind of people.

His consultants (assuming he has any) should have told him that the right days to enter the Mandovi are Monday 24 July and Tuesday 25 July at mid-day, when the spring tides around the New Moon are at their highest.

Instead, they tried to pull off the operation on a day when the water level was nearly half a metre lower. It appears that the operation continued till long after the tide had receded from the highest position of the day, because the ship's call for help went out only late in the evening.

The two tugs of the towing company Mr Kanda hired, SS Offshore Pvt Ltd, should have checked that the depth of the channel off Miramar was adequate before they attempted to tow the ship into the Mandovi River. Obviously, they didn't.

Even after the ship got stuck, they persisted in trying to pull it into the river. This caused the towing cable to snap, seriously injuring a crew member. This kind of all-round negligence has contributed to the tragedy.

'Lucky 7' was not equipped with adequate anchors. The anchor chain apparently snapped in the wee hours of Sunday, causing the ship to drift onto Miramar Beach. The anchor and chain now remain somewhere in the channel. If not salvaged separately, the anchor may collide with a barge after the sand bar opens on 15 September, causing another shipwreck.

Salvaging the 'Lucky Seven' is not easy. It is securely grounded. With every day that passes it gets more and more firmly stuck. Its rudder and propellers are completely buried in the sand. The formidable surf at Miramar is causing the ship's bow to slam on the sea bed. This may rupture its weak hull, and make salvage all but impossible.

The bollards used to secure the ship are not only rusted but completely bent. Are they going to be firm enough to secure the cables required for Tugs to tow the vessel out to sea?

'Lucky 7' is not a seaworthy vessel. On the contrary, it is a scrap-worthy boat. However, the government's rules permit rusty tubs — fit only for the junkyard — to be used as so-called 'offshore' casino vessels. Unless that changes, nothing else will.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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