ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is readying for a beach clean-up and possible oil leak as feeder container vessel X-Press Pearl is spewing out charred debris with strong winds fanning the flames and the possibility of an oil leak looms, an official said.
The vessel had 278 metric tonnes of fuel onboard when it anchored off Colombo Port after arriving from India.
“There is no oil spill at the moment but we anticipate if the fire continues the next couple of days then definitely there will be an oil spill,” Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Dharshani Lahandapura told EconomyNext.
“Though there is about 278 metric tons of oil of that we assume at least 50 per cent of will burn out and the remaining portion may come to our shores.”
Charred debris and cargo that spilt out f the ship on May 25 had started washing up on the beach around Negombo as broadly forecasted by MEPA a day earlier.
Sri Lanka has readied chemical dispersants and pollution control Coast Guard vessels had also come from India supplement Sri Lanka Navy and Sri Lanka Port Authority vessels and helicopters.
The ship’s owners X-Press feeders had also chartered tugs to help fight the fire and brought in SMIT Salvage, experts based in Netherlands.
Lahandapura said bad weather was preventing laying out oil containment booms around the blazing vessel at the moment.
Instead, based on International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) guidelines pollution control measures will be deployed as the oil reaches the shore.
“We have kept everything standby and are planning for that,” she said.
MEPA had designated the disaster as a Tier II oil spill and it had not been upgraded she said.
She said the flames on the ship seems to be going down, and there were hopes it will reduce.
She advises people not to touch the debris coming ashore as there could be hazardous chemicals.
Television news footage showed impromptu beachcombers taking away intact plastic granule sacks before they broke up. Others were handling granules spread.
Others were also collecting chocolates according to one report.
Charred debris was also washing ashore. (Colombo/May26/2021)