ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan authorities have made a grave mistake in allowing MV X-Press Pearl which already had a chemical leak to enter Sri Lankan waters without getting detailed information about its cargo as per standard procedure, opposition MP Vijitha Herath said.
Speaking to reporters on June 01, the MP said Ports Minister Rohitha Abeygunwardena’s claim that the authorities were not informed about the leak is unacceptable.
“Standard procedure is that when a ship is headed to a Sri Lankan port, the shipping company informs the port in detail about its cargo and crew as the vessel enters the country’s territorial waters.
“If this ship entered our waters without informing the port, it’s a grave mistake [on the part of the authorities] and a grave negligence of national security as more harmful things could’ve entered the country that way,” said Herath.
The gutted ship was seen sinking today even as it was being towed away to deeper waters off Sri Lanka, amid fears of an oil spill. Latest reports indicate that the towing has stopped as the stern of the vessel has touched the ocean floor.
The disaster has already caused much damaged to Sri Lanka’s western shore line and marine life, with the fishing community directly affected.
Herath, who represents the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)-led National People’s Power in parliament, accused the government of making excuses.
“If the minister and officials are claiming that they weren’t informed, that’s not an excuse. They’re the parties responsible for getting that information from the ship,” he said.
The MP also called for legal action against the shipping company if it is found that it had not followed accepted international convention.
Sri Lanka has launched a criminal probe into the incident with the captain and members of the crew being questioned by police.
“If our authorities did not get to know about the leak that started days before on the Arabian seas, then the fault lies with them,” said Herath.
The MP further said the government still hasn’t informed the public about the chemical substances that were in the ship.
At a meeting held yesterday at the Presidential Secretariat, Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena said that MV X-Press Pearl which entered Sri Lankan waters on May 19 night, did not inform the ports authority about the nitric acid leak in one of its containers until 10am the following morning when they requested permission from the ports authority to unload the container with the leak.
The minister said that on May 15 the Hazira Port in India had rejected the request from the vessel to unload the container with the leak as the port did not have the required facilities to carry out such a task.
“We got to know about this later,” he added. (Colombo/June02/2021)