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Cargo vessel in process of sinking, efforts on to tackle oil spill: Sri Lankan officials

A Singapore-flagged cargo vessel, MV 'X-Press Pearl', loaded with about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid and 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tank, caught fire 9.5 nautical miles away from Colombo Port.

By: PTI | Colombo |
Updated: May 27, 2021 5:18:41 pm
The raging fire has largely been controlled and all 25 crew members aboard the MV 'X-Press Pearl' have been rescued. (Photo: Twitter/@IndiainSL)

Sri Lanka’s apex environment body on Thursday said a Singapore-flagged cargo vessel, which caught fire near the Colombo beach last week, is in the process of sinking, and that preparations are underway to tackle the resulting oil spill.

Speaking to reporters, top Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) official Turney Pradeep Kumara said the government would file for damages to responsible parties for the damages done to the marine ecosystem.

“The crew will be questioned and statements will be recorded. There will be legal action through the Attorney General,” Kumara said.

All 25 crew members of MV ‘X-PRESS PEARL’ — of Indian, Chinese, Filipino and Russian nationality — were rescued on Tuesday after a ‘fire alarm’ dispatch was sent.

“We have set in motion the process to manage the oil spill when it occurs. Equipment necessary is already in place,” Kumara said.

The National Aquatic Resource Research and Development Agency (NARA) said chemicals and other materials washed ashore from the ship along the western coast area from Colombo to Marawila would be collected and analysed.

Based on the analysis, the NARA officials would state the degree of damage done to the marine ecosystem.

Apart from the 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, X-Press Pearl was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid.

The cargo vessel was carrying a consignment of chemicals and raw materials for cosmetics from Hazira in Gujarat to Colombo Port.

It caught fire 9.5 nautical miles from the coast here, where it was anchored outside the Port of Colombo on May 20.

A major operation was launched to extinguish the flames of the ship. A special team of the Sri Lankan Navy, Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Marine Environment Protection Authority reached the fire-hit container ship on May 21.

Following a call for help, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on Tuesday sent two ships — ICG’s Vaibhav and patrol vessel, Vajra — and an ICG aircraft to firefight and augment pollution control measures. Even vessels attached to the European Union joined the fire fighting operations on Wednesday.

However, rough seas and bad weather have resulted in little manoeuvrability at the sea, officials said.

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