ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will not permit the extraction of some 48,000 tonnes of scrap metal from the X-Press Pearl shipwreck without an import-export license and such extraction will be subject to a 10-percent CESS tax, State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyamabalapitiya said.
A statement from the state minister’s office said on Tuesday February 07 that a discussion was held with President Ranil Wickremesinghe on the matter on Monday.
The president had said at the meeting that the law of the land applies to anything that exists within the country’s maritime border.
“If any party wishes to take this scrap metal out, they must obtain an import-export license and, in addition, pay customs tariffs. Under the Customs Ordinance, a 10-percent CESS tax should be charged on the value of this metal,” the statement quoted State Minister Siyambalapitiya as saying.
On May 20, 2021, Singapore flagged container vessel MV X-Press Pearl, anchored off Colombo port, caught fire, leading to what became the worst marine environment disaster in the island nation’s history, as estimated by Greenpeace among others. The tanker was carrying hundreds of tonnes of chemicals and plastic nurdles on board. The fire lasted several days and partially burnt debris and tonnes of nurdles had turned up on Sri Lanka’s shores along with dead animals.
Sri Lanka is currently awaiting the removal of the wreck to make a second environmental damage claim, an official said.
China-based Shanghai Salvage was hired to remove the wreck in February 2021. It was originally expected to be removed in 120 days but bad weather had delayed the activity.
“The second interim claim is pending until the wreck is removed,” Dharshani Lahandapura told Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Authority, (MEPA) told EconomyNext.
“We cannot do anything to prepare a final report since we assume the pollution is happening even now at the moment.
Sri Lanka has received 40 million dollars from insurers in an interim claim.
“The vessel had nitric acid, caustic soda, and some other chemicals which are actually used for personal products like perfume,” Lahandapura said.
“We had electric and electronic equipment, and had lithium in the container which is highly hazardous.
“The evacuation is happening now at the moment. They have cut the ship into two pieces and differentially floated one part.”
An expert committee appointed by the government had warned that more damage could occur during salvage if material inside the ship spills into the sea, Sri Lanka’s Justice Ministry said in a statement. (Colombo/Feb07/2023)