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Friday July 30th, 2021
Logistics

Blazing X-press Pearl off Sri Lanka triggers Tier II oil spill warning

FIERY END: Containers spilled off the vessel as the fire raged.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is preparing for a Tier II level oil spill from which was set ablaze when some containers carrying chemicals caught fire, the head of the Indian Ocean Island’s marine protections agency said.

Sri Lanka Port Authority fire fighting tugs doused the first fire on May 21 and was keeping watch as containers were hot when the fire re-ignited.

“We are planning it to the next level, and we declare it as potential Tier II oil spillage,” the Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority Dharshani Lahandapura said.

“We have a mechanism called incident management team. They have been activated since the very first day and we have mapped all the requirements, expertise, resources and manpower in case of oil spillage and they are on standby.”

The container ship had had about 300 tonnes of fuel onboard. The fire started on containers mounted on the deck.

State Minister of Fishery Harbhours Kanchana Wijesekera said fishery harbhours were under threat from an oil spill.

Among its 1400 containers were at least 25 with nitric acid and some cosmetics, according to a Sri Lanka Navy statement.

The concentration of nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide in the air had risen, she said.

“The situation was under control,” Lahandapura said. “But last night due to the wind patterns and the low-pressure situation developing in the area the fire escalated and there were some explosions in the container but not in the vessel.”

There have been heavy winds of Sri Lanka from tropical cyclone developing in the Bay of Bengal.

Some containers had since fallen off the blazing vessel into the sea. The crew was take off the ship.

MEPA has also notified regional coastal environment and maritime organizations such as International Maritime Organization and South Asian Environmental Corporations to get their assistance if the situation escalates.

“However if there is a spillage we will not have time to get their assistance because it is very close to the coastal area and within a few hours’ time it will reach the coast,” Lahandapura said.

“But we are trying within the local stakeholders to avoid the fire first.”

Sri Lanka Port Authority said a team from SMIT Salvage in the Netherlands had arrived in Sri Lanka.

The ship’s owners, X-Press Feeders had sent a offshore supply vessel, Posh Teal, a 4,500 tonne dead weight tonne to help fight the fire.

As the fire worsened the crew was evacuated.

X-press Pearl is now about 50 kilometres off Sri Lanka’s coast. (Colombo/May25/2021)

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