Fire-Gutted Container Ship Raises Oil Spill Concerns for Sri Lanka

By Anusha Ondaatjie and Asantha Sirimanne | June 3, 2021

Salvors and authorities are watching for any leaking of fuel after halting efforts to tow a fire-gutted container vessel away from beaches and fishing grounds off the coast of Sri Lanka.

The ship’s stern hit the ocean floor after it was towed only a few hundred meters from the Port of Colombo, Sri Lanka Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said late Wednesday.

“We are actually getting ready for an oil spill that might come up in a few days,” Captain de Silva said. “We don’t know yet but we are getting ready.”

Leaking oil would add to the damage already caused by the ship, which first reported smoke from the cargo hold while at Colombo anchorage on May 20, and then a fire on deck the following day. Video from the Sri Lankan Air Force showed aerial shots of the smoldering, partially submerged X-Press Pearl vessel.

“X-PRESS PEARL” vessel. Footage was captured by the SLAF Bell 212 a shor… via @YouTube
— Sri Lanka Air Force (@airforcelk) June 2, 2021

The Singapore-based ship operator, X-Press Feeders, is facing criminal charges for pollution caused by the vessel in Sri Lankan waters, the Straits Times reported Tuesday. The newspaper said the ship was carrying 1,486 containers and had 25 tonnes of nitric acid, other chemicals and cosmetics on board, and that tiny plastic pellets from the ship have washed up and spread along Sri Lanka’s western coastline.

Fishermen along the coast have been banned from fishing in several areas where the Marine Environmental Protection Authority expects debris from the wreck may spread.

X-Press Pearl was carrying more than 300 tonnes of ship fuel when it caught fire. It is not clear whether the fierce flames that gutted the ship had also consumed the bunker oil.

Photograph: The container ship MV X-Press Pearl sinks while being towed away from the coast of Colombo on June 2. Photo credit: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images.

Topics Energy Oil Gas

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