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)