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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka directs X-Press Pearl salvors to take oil out of gutted ship – if any remains

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has ordered salvors of X-Press Pearl, which is partially sunk in the shallows of Colombo Port to take specific countermeasures against a possible oil spill, as the Indian Ocean Island backed by India implements its own action plan.

Dharshani Lahandapura, the Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environmental Protection Authority said it was not clear whether any of the 300 tonnes of bunker oil on board the vessel survived the inferno.

The MEPA has directed the salvors to seal any leak that is discovered and also take action to pump any remaining oil whenever possible and also take action to counter any spill, if it occurs.

“We still cannot confirm whether the ship has oil on board or not,” Lahandapura told reporters in Colombo.

“We have issued directions to captain of the salvage team to seal the tanks if there is a leak. And to make arrangements to get a tanker and take the oil out if possible.”

X-Press Feeders had engaged SMIT Salvage of the Netherlands for the overall salvage effort when the fire first started.

“And also we have directed the salvors themselves to also have their own plan to contain an oil spill.”

X-Press Feeders said Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) and international firm had been appointed to support the effort.

She said as of June 03, the ship is still half submerged – with the aft section resting on the shallow bottom 21 meters below.

The salvors have been asked to give update every three hours.

Though the salvors were ordered to take containment measures Sri Lanka had also deployed its the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCOP) involving 15 private and state agencies that had had expertise or equipment to help.

Booms and skimmers and equipment had been readied at Dikkowita and Colombo Ports ready to be deployed shs said.

“If the sea conditions are rough we cannot use the booms,” she said.

“So we have readied dispersants in various locations.”

Colombo Port Harbhour Master Nirmal de Silva said a swell of around two metres when he visited the wreck which makes it difficult for skimmers.

Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and several private firms which volunteered are involved in the exercise.

“Indian Coast Guard vessels are here,” Lahandapura said. “They are very ready to help. They have booms and dispersants.”

She said sensitive spots along the coast, which have been identified already have individual protective plans.

She said legal processes are going on separately. Sri Lanka has questioned the captain and crew of the tanker.


Sri Lanka has collected hundreds of tonnes of debris and flotsam including plastic granules, in an ongoing beach clean up.

Sri Lanka collects 34 containers of debris from stricken X-Press Pearl

It is not clear how the fire started, though the vessel was carrying several items of dangerous cargo and it had a leaking nitric acid container.

Colombo Harbhour Master Nirmal de Silva said the fire first started in the number 02 hold of the vessel while the leaking acid container was on deck. (Colombo/June03/2021)

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Time right for elections, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna ready to face any poll: Basil

File photo: SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa

ECONOMYNEXT — The time has come for an election in Sri Lanka and the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is ready to face any election, SLPP national organiser Basil Rajapaksa said, dismissing claims that the party has come to fear elections in the face of growing unpopularity and increased factionalisation.

Speaking to reporters at an event held in Colombo Monday December 05 morning to mark the fourth anniversary of the party’s media centre, Rajapaksa handwaved off assertions that the SLPP has splintered in the wake of the mass protests that ousted his brother and former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

“No, our party hasn’t fragmented, not the way this cake was cut,” he said, pointing to the cake that was cut to celebrate the media centre’s anniversary.

“There may be some [dissenters], but we are with the people,” said Rajapaksa.

Political analysts, however, note that the once mighty SLPP has indeed fractured to at least four or five distinct factions. One group, according to party sources, is with President Ranil Wickremesinghe who is keen to involve younger SLPP legislators in his economic reform agenda. The second is with former Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma who launched an unsuccessful bid for the presidency and was roundly defeated by Wickremesinghe at the July 19 presidential vote in parliament. The third group now sits as independent MPs in parliament, while a fourth faction are with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the SLPP patriarch.

There is another group that remains loyal to Basil Rajapaksa, though all but one SLPP legislator voted for the 21st amendment to the constitution that prohibited dual citizens from entering parliament. Rajapaksa, a dual citizen with US passport, recently returned to the island after a private visit to his second home.

The former finance minister, who resigned after a wave of protests that demanded his departure along with that of his presidential brother, for their alleged role in Sri Lanka’s prevailing currency crisis, the worst in decades, was in a jovial mood at the anniversary event on Monday and was seen heartily indulging reporters who were throwing loaded question after loaded question at him.

Asked about future plans of the SLPP, Rajapaksa quipped that they couldn’t be revealed to the media at this stage.

“However, time has come for an election. It’s difficult to say how it will be at present, but as a party, we’re ready to face any election,” he said.

Rajapaksa’s apparent confidence in facing an election is in direct contrast to speculation that the SLPP is banking on President Wickremesinghe’s refusal to dissolve parliament anytime soon. Opposition lawmakers have accused Wickremesinghe of providing sanctuary and promising security to the deeply unpopular party by not calling early elections.

“We have won every election we faced so far. We are thankful to the Sri Lankan people for that. If we were unable to meet their expectations 100 percent, we regret that. We will correct any shortcomings and will work to fulfill the people’s aspirations,” said Rajapaksa.

Asked if he is going to remain in active politics despite the blanket ban on dual citizens, the former minister said, again with a chuckle: “Active politics… well, I’m not in governance anymore. Governance [for me] has been banned by the 21st amendment. So no, I’m not in governance, but I am in politics,” he said.

Pressed about possibly entering parliament again, he said: “How can I?”

Nor is Rajapaksa saddened by the development, he claimed. “No, I’m happy about it,” he said.

The former two-time finance minister, noted for his clash of views with Wickremesinghe when the latter was invited by then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for a round of discussions on economic recovery, was cautiously complimentary when asked about the new president. It was the SLPP’s backing that guaranteed Wickremesinghe his lifelong ambition.

“I think that selection was the correct one. We have maintained from the start that all of us in government or opposition must be able to freely engage in politics,” he said, referring to assurances that the president has purportedly given SLPP parliamentarians that they will not face the kind of retaliatory mob violence that engulfed the nation on May 09 after alleged SLPP goons attacked peaceful anti-government protestors in Colombo.

A reporter asked if Rajapaksa believes the incumbent president is capable of taking the country on the right path to recovery?

“The first task was accomplished, by allowing us to engage in politics and to get on the streets. There are economic and other issues, and we have high hopes that they will be resolved,” he said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka proposed power tariff not to recover past losses: Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – The government has not proposed a power tariff increase to recover past losses, Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera in response to a statement attributed the head of the power regulator commission.

“The proposal that was presented was for an automatic cost reflective tariff mechanism to be implemented to supply uninterrupted power & to recover the current cost of power supply,” Minister Wijesekera said in message.

“Govt has not proposed to recover past loses of CEB from a tariff revision…”

The cabinet of ministers had given the nod tariff revisions twice a year to prevent large losses from building up as in the past.

The Public Utilities Commission has disputed costs protected for the power utility saying the petroleum utility was keeping large margins in selling fuel.

The government in a budget for 2022 also proposed to tax surcharge to recover losses.

The regulator also disputed power demand forecasts.

Also read; Sri Lanka regulator disputes CEB costs, demand projections for 2023

The PUCSL cannot increase tariffs to recover past losses, Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said. (Colombo/Dec05/2022)

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Sri Lanka’s shares gain in mid market trade

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged up in mid day trade on Monday (05), continuing the positive run for seven straight sessions on news over a possible debt restructuring from Paris Club, analysts said.

All Share Price Index gained by 0.69% or 60.10 points to 8,829, while the most liquid shares gained by 0.96% or 26.59 points to 2,801.

“The market was pushed up over the news of a potential 10 year debt moratorium,” analysts said.

The Paris Club group of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s prevailing currency crisis. 

Related – Paris Club proposes 10-year moratorium in 15-year Sri Lanka debt re-structure: report

The market generated a revenue of 2.1 billion rupees.

Top gainers during 1130 hours were Expolanka, Browns Investment and LOLC.  (Colombo/Dec05/2022)


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