ECONOMYNEXT – The fire aboard the crude oil carrier MT New Diamond which is 38 kilometers off the eastern coast of the island has broken out again and the flames have reached the bridge, Sri Lanka Navy said.
Captain Indika de Silva told EconomyNext that the fire in the engine room of the ship which they thought was under control is now raging.
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It is yet to reach the cargo area which is full of crude oil.
The ship is now abandoned as all the men except for one missing crewmen have been brought on to Sri Lankan Navy vessels or other Merchantmen.
Three Russian Naval vessels which were in the nearby Hambantota Port for bunkering are moving towards the stricken vessel to assist with the emergency.
Three Indian Coast Guard vessels, as well as Dornier Aircraft, have also been deployed to join the Sri Lankan Navy to fight the fire.
The spokesman said the Russian Embassy in Colombo had given the “clearance” for the Russian vessels to join the rescue.
De Silva said, “we will need an international effort.”
“We are bringing one injured crew member to Sri Lanka onboard one of our vessels. The bulk of the crew 12 members were taken on board by another merchant vessel,” he said.
De Silva said “23 people are accounted for we are looking for the one missing person.”
The rest of the crew are also on their way to Sri Lanka with the Navy.
The fire is causing serious concern on shore for Sri Lanka as officials are concerned about a possible spill from the stricken vessel as Sri Lanka does not have the technical capacity to deal with a massive oil spill if the ship discharges its cargo into the sea.
Dharshani Lahandapura, Chair of the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) Sri Lanka told EconomyNext that if the cargo and the diesel onboard the vessel were to leak out it would have disastrous consequences.
She said Sri Lanka on its own will not be able to handle such a big disaster.
“If there is a leakage we are talking about 3.4 million metric tons of crude oil and diesel. We cannot even measure the impact of it on the environment,” Lahandapura said.
The cargo of crude oil on board is 2.7 million tons.
She said MEPA is coordinating with the South Asian region as well as international organizations to get support to counter this situation.
“And also we have already prepared the equipment and other resources to counter a possible leakage of crude oil and we will send them to Hambantota immediately,” she said.
The vessel is the MT New Diamond and was heading to the Paradip Port in India carrying crude oil from Kuwait.
The Navy has deployed three vessels to assist the tanker and the Sri Lanka Air Force has dispatched an aircraft for surveillance. (Colombo September 3, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana