ECONOMYNEXT – X-Press Pearl, a 37,000 deadweight tonne container vessel that sank off Sri Lanka after catching fire appears to be leaching a material that is causing a grey sheen, its owners said after satellite pictures showed a light coloured area trailing off the ship.
“A grey sheen has been observed emanating from the vessel, and water samples are currently being tested,” X-Press Feeders, the owners of the vessel said.
“Discolouration of the sea has been apparent since the vessel’s stern became submerged, and the remnants of the cargo in the 1486 containers that were on board were exposed to water.”
Planet Labs, a satellite imaging and intelligence company released pictures showing a long tongue of light-coloured sea leading away from the ship, similar to a spill spreading away in a current.
X-Press Pearl was carrying over 40 containers or above 800 tonnes of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) in solid form. Some of the caustic soda was stored just under a leaking acid container, separated by a hatch cover.
Caustic soda (NaOH), which is white, releases heat when it dissolves in water separating into Na+ and OH- ions, becoming colourless. Seawater however is sodium chloride. In the lab Na
The vessel also had around 50 containers of urea. The vessel was also carrying smaller amounts of other chemicals.
NaOH can react with other materials, including urea. There has been speculation that algae may be growing near the vessel.
Authorities in Sri Lanka have said that no fuel oil or bunker spill was visible.
“Inspections thus far by Sri Lankan Navy divers have found no evidence of a breach to the ships fuel oil tanks, and observations from the Salvors who remain on scene with the Sri Lankan Navy and Indian Coastguard are there has been no noticeable fuel oil spill,” X-Press Feeders said.