Burning Supertanker being towed away from Sri Lankan waters – Navy Spokesman
ECONOMYNEXT – The stricken supertanker MT New Diamond is being towed away from Sri Lankan waters as the fire onboard continues to burn, the Sri Lankan Navy said.
Navy Spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told EconomyNext that the burning supertanker carrying 2.7 million tons of crude oil had drifted within 25 kilometres of the South-Eastern coast of Sri Lanka last night.
The ship is adrift as the crew had been forced to leave the ship due to the fire. Most of the crew members are on Sri Lanka Navy vessels that are with the burning tanker.
There are three SLN vessels and two Russian warships which joined them yesterday have left, he said.
Two Indian Coastguard vessels and several tugs equipped with fire-fighting gear are with the New Diamond.
One Filipino sailor who was missing yesterday is presumed dead, Captain de Silva said.
“Crew members told us that he was badly injured in a boiler explosion and it is doubtful he has survived the injuries,” he said.
The captain of the ship is also with the Sri Lankan Navy and is coordinating the fire-fighting de Silva said.
The rest of the 24-member crew are accounted for.
He also said that no leaks had yet been spotted from the cargo holds.
Officials in Sri Lanka are anxiously watching the vessel as they are concerned about a possible spill from the stricken vessel as the island does not have the technical capacity to deal with a massive oil spill if the ship discharges its cargo into the sea.
Dharshani Lahandapura, Chair of the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) Sri Lanka told EconomyNext that if the cargo and the diesel on board the vessel were to leak out it would have disastrous consequences.
She said Sri Lanka on its own will not be able to handle such a big disaster.
“If there is a leakage we are talking about 3.4 million metric tons of crude oil and diesel. We cannot even measure the impact of it on the environment,” Lahandapura said.
She said MEPA is coordinating with the South Asian region as well as international organizations to get support to counter this situation.
“And also we have already prepared the equipment and other resources to counter a possible leakage of crude oil and we will send them to Hambantota immediately,” she said.
The Sri Lankan Meteorological Department also issued an oil-spill warning for the East Coast of the island.
The vessel caught fire yesterday while it was 38km off Sri Lanka heading to the Paradip Port in India carrying crude oil from Kuwait.
The fire originated in the Engine Room and a few hours later engulfed the bridge forcing the crew to abandon ship. (Colombo, September 4, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana