Goa’s offshore casinos should be 12 nautical miles from shore: expert

March 6th, 2009 - 7:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, March 6 (IANS) Offshore casinos in Goa do not conform to the definition of the term “offshore” accepted by the global shipping community, which is 12 nautical miles from the shore, a shipping expert said Friday.
Speaking on the sidelines of an event here to mark the launch of an international shipping company, former director of the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) Captain Taru Hazari said the word offshore automatically meant that the casino ships should be anchored at least 12 nautical miles from the shore.

“In Goa, the offshore casinos are located around the minor ports, which are governed by the Captain of Ports,” Hazari, an alumni of the renowned World Maritime University located in Malmo, Sweden, said. “India’s territorial waters end at 12 nautical miles from the shore. By definition, the offshore casinos should be anchored beyond this distance,” he said.

The presence of six “offshore” casinos anchored and operational in the Mandovi river off Panaji, have been the bone of contention between the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Congress-led coalition government for several months now.

The BJP, which has alleged massive corruption in the issuing of licences and clearances to the casino operators, has been insisting that the casinos should be moved out into the sea to avoid congestion in the Mandovi river, which sees heavy barge and river cruise traffic.

Chief Minister Digambar Kamat’s office and former chief secretary J.P. Singh have already been accused of “influencing” a high ranking central government official to release a casino vessel, which was being probed by the Customs and Central Excise department for duty evasion.

Sustained pressure from the opposition has also forced the state government to order the casino operators to move out from the city limits and park themselves in the Aguada Bay, which is a mere 500 metres off the coast.

The State Pollution Control Board has already issued show cause notices to the casino operators, after allegations that the vessels were discharging raw, untreated sewage into the Mandovi river.

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