Rabu, 02 Juni 2021

Oil spill fears as burnt-out chemical cargo ship sinks off Sri Lankan west coast - ABC News

A burnt-out container ship that has already caused Sri Lanka's worst maritime environmental disaster has continued sinking, with several hundred tonnes of oil still in its fuel tanks, the navy said.

The MV X-Press Pearl, carrying hundreds of tonnes of chemicals and plastics, burned for 13 days within sight of the island nation's coast before rescue workers finally managed to extinguish the blaze on Tuesday.

A huge amount of plastic debris has already inundated beaches, and authorities now fear an even greater disaster should the 278 tonnes of bunker oil and 50 tonnes of gas in the Singapore-registered ship's fuel tanks leak into the Indian Ocean.

People salvage wreckage washed to the shore from the burning ship
Local fishers say they have never seen such destruction.(

AP: Eranga Jayawardena


As tugs on Wednesday began trying to tow the ship further out to sea, navy spokesperson Indika de Silva said it was slowly sinking.

"The ship is going down."

Some oil was already visible near the beaches of Negombo, about 40 kilometres from Colombo, an AFP photographer said, although it was not clear if it was from the stricken ship.

Smoke rises from the container vessel MV X-Press Pearl engulfed in flames
The X-Press Pearl, which caught fire as it waited to enter Colombo Harbour, remains anchored just outside the port.(

AP: Sri Lanka Air Force


Mr de Silva said the navy helped Dutch salvage firm SMIT to board the vessel and establish a tow connection after several attempts overnight failed due to bad weather.

Fisheries minister Kanchana Wijesekera tweeted that the salvage company involved in the operation "has indicated that the vessel is sinking at the current location".


An official involved in the mitigation efforts said earlier that local experts feared the vessel was unstable.

"The fire-fighting efforts also saw a lot of water sprayed onto the decks. Much of that water has settled in the stern," the official told AFP.

Oil slick disaster 

Officials had planned to pump contaminated water from the ship onto barges but the operation was abandoned.

The navy said an Indian coast guard vessel in the area had the equipment to deal with an oil slick if necessary.

The inundation of microplastic granules from the ship's containers has already forced a fishing ban and prompted concern for the wildlife and environment.

Officials believe the blaze destroyed most of the nearly 1,500 containers onboard.

Sri Lankans push a barrel shore, washed up from burning a burning ship
Sri Lanka faces an unprecedented pollution crisis as a result of the ship fire.(

AP: Eranga Jayawardena


Marine Environment Protection Authority chief Dharshani Lahandapura said the ecological damage was still being assessed, but he believed it was the "worst ever in my lifetime".

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Monday asked Australia to help evaluate the ecological damage to the island, one of the most bio-diverse countries in South Asia.

Sri Lanka has launched a criminal investigation.

A navy soldier dressed in personal protection equipment pushes a large piece of debris up the beach
A Sri Lankan Navy sailor inspects a large piece of debris from the X-Press Pearl.(

Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawatte


The authorities believe that the fire was caused by a nitric acid leak, which the crew apparently knew about from May 11, nine days before the blaze started.

Police said that the captain and chief engineer, both Russian nationals, as well as a third officer have been questioned.

A court had ordered Tuesday to impound the passports of all three pending investigations.

The ship was heading to Colombo from Gujarat, India, when the blaze started, having previously visited Qatar and Dubai where the containers of 25 tonnes of nitric acid were loaded.


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2021-06-02 09:05:34Z

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