ECONOMYNEXT – X-Press Pearl, a container vessel which is now on fire off Sri Lanka was denied permission by Qatar and India to offload containers when an acid leak was first discovered by the crew, a media report said raising queries about the role played by ports in averting shipping disasters.
Tim Hartnoll, the executive chairman of X-Press Feeders was quoted in Splash247, a maritime news portal as saying that the crew found the leak in the Arabian Sea and then contacted two ports Hazira on the west coast of India and Hamad in Qatar asking to offload the containers.
The request was denied and the vessel came to Colombo.
“It was a case of not in my backyard syndrome,” Hartnoll was quoted as saying.
The containers caught fire while the vessel was anchored 9.5 kilometres off the port.
The 25 crew was saved by Sri Lanka’s military. Two who were injured are being treated at a state hospital.
The rest of the crew is in a ‘bio-bubble’ at a hotel, amid a Covid-19 pandemic.
Among seafarers, it is a longstanding practice to help distressed vessels. Ships will change course and delay voyages to help or rescue other mariners.
The ship had been carrying 25 containers of nitric acid, according to a statement by Sri Lanka Navy.
Hartnell blamed poor packaging for the leak.
Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force, tugs chartered by the owners helped by India also tried to douse the fire, but it re-ignited and stormed through the entire ship fanned by strong winds.
Sri Lanka is now preparing for an oil spill from onboard fuel and charred debris is washing up on the island’s beaches.
The portal said a report by Gard, a maritime insurer found that containerized cargo is now catching fire every two weeks on average.
After self-heating charcoal, badly packaged chemicals was the second biggest cause of fires in containers at sea. (Colombo/May27/2021 – Headline changed to better reflect quote)