While the highest safety levels on par with international norms are already implemented at all ports in the country, experts are now speculating whether there was a minor slippage leading to a tragedy of such a magnitude.
"The most stringent safety norms are already in place at all ports in the country, particularly sensitive ones handling defence operations, or those handling international operations like Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. These strict norms are also reviewed thoroughly every two years and any loopholes are plugged," said a leading maritime expert with the merchant navy requesting anonymity.
He said that for different ports, norms and parameters may differ as also the review periods, depending on their local needs and implications.
For vital defence establishments across the country, the norms are bound to be even more stringent as they deal with the nation's security concerns, he said.
Another maritime expert and chairman-cum-managing director of Dighi Port, Vijay Kalantri, said there cannot be any let-up as far as safety or disaster management is involved in sensitive locations like airports or seaports.
"Every such incident, major or minor, should serve as a lesson to improve upon the existing levels of safety. If some improvement needs to be done tomorrow, it should be done today itself. Anything can happen anytime and losses can be staggering, so we can't afford to wait till tomorrow," Kalantri told IANS.
Dighi Port, costing around Rs.2,500 crore, is Maharashtra's first and largest green seaport coming up in Raigad, 175 km south of Mumbai, and is a part of the ambitious Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.
National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) chief A.G. Serang said the submarine tragedy was "truly shocking in terms of the magnitude of losses, both human and material".
"Some of our finest naval personnel have perished, not to mention the submarine itself, which was a part of our valuable defence assets," Serang said.
According to Serang, though the exact causes of the tragedy would emerge only after a proper investigation, all ports and vessels may be compelled to review their existing safety and disaster response mechanisms and plug the smallest of gaps anywhere.
"If an oil, gas or chemical tanker had been sailing in the vicinity of the submarine which exploded and caught fire, it could have resulted in a disaster of uninmaginable magnitude," Serang said.
According to the Indian Ports Association (IPA), there are 187 big and small ports dotting the country's 7,517 km long coastline, with Maharashtra having the largest number of 53 ports, and a few more coming up in the near future.
Gujarat follows Maharashtra with 40 ports, Andaman and Nicobar Islands with 23, Tamil Nadu 15, Kerala 13, Andhra Pradesh 12, Karnataka and Lakshadweep Isles with 10 each, Goa five, Orissa and Daman and Diu two each, West Bengal and Pondicherry with one each.
Of the total number, 133 ports are on the west coast of India and the rest on the east coast.
--IANS (Posted on 14-08-2013)