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Monday December 5th, 2022

Sri Lanka recovers X-Press Pearl black box, chief officer questioned on stowage plan

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has recovered a black box, or voyage data recorder of X-Press Pearl, which was destroyed by fire and is sinking off Colombo Port, while police questioned the vessels chief officer on dangerous goods stowage plan.

Colombo Port said marine experts from Sri Lanka’s Merchant Shipping Secretariat with the help of Sri Lanka Navy, had recovered the Voyage Data Recorder.

Police are also probing a fire which destroyed the container vessel X-Press Pearl has questioned the its chief officer extensively on the loading plan of containers, Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana said.

“The statement of the chief officer was taken over two days and completed,” DIG Rohana told Sri Lanka’s privately run Siyatha Television.

“It is a very important statement because he is the person responsible for the container plan. He was questioned on locations of the chemical containers, about what was on top and nearby containers.”

Police have questioned 16 of the 25 crew including its captain, chief engineer and deputy chief engineer, he said.

The X-Press Pearl was a 37,000 dead weight tonne container vessel built by Zhoushan Changhong International Shipyard Co. Ltd of China.

It was designed by Marine Design and Research Institute of China (MARIC) and built to DNV GL class.

X-Press Pearl had sought assistance in ‘re-working’ a leaking nitric acid container on May 20, shortly before the first fire started, Colombo Port Harbhour Master Nirmal Silva said.

Colombo Port has said it had the facilities to re-work the container as a hub port. The fire worsened in bad weather and the ship is now partially sunk and is on watch for a possible oil spill.

The vessel could carry 2,700 twenty foot containers, depending on the weight in bays in its holds and on deck.

X-Press Pearl was carrying large volumes of Sodium Hydroxide in solid form in its holds according to available information.

crew had put out the fire using an on board carbon dioxide system, but the fire had re-ignited indicating that there was a leak (it was no air – or water tight), Silva said.

Dangerous goods such as chemicals are loaded on to ships based on the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG code) requirements and are routinely carried in ships.

“When stowage planning is done by each terminal, they have segregation requirements and separation requirements, if not it will show up (in the software),” Colombo Port’s Harbour Master Nirmal Silva told reporters on June 03, when queried on the possibility of a loading conflict.

“I would believe that it was planned in the proper way as required by the IMDG code because that will come up in the stowage planning.”

Dangerous goods are classified into nine classes.

According to available information X-Press Pearl carried Class 03 flammable perfumery products, vinyl acetate, Class 04 flammable solids such as sodium methylate, class 8 Corrosive substances such as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) in solid form and nitric acid.

Sodium hydoxide releases heat when it dissolves in water.

Others included Class 9 miscellaneous dangerous substances like polymeric beads (which can leak pentane) and lithium batteries.

Dangerous goods types include explosives (Class 01) and gases (02). Goods can be labelled dangerous not just because they are are flammable but also because gasses are under pressure they are are toxic or infectious (Class 06).

Most ships routinely carry dangerous goods, subject to IMDG requirements.

Some classes of goods cannot be carried in holds while others cannot be stowed next to each other.

Terminal operating systems are usually used to track cargo.

“Explosives cannot be stored down below,” Silva explained. “There are so many conditions for each and every class.

“Even within the class there are conditions which are taken into account, when stowage planning is done by the terminal.

“When the terminal plans the stowage and when they give the plan to the ship, the ship’s personnel check on that and confirms it is ok. When they check through their loading program on board it will show up if there is any conflict with dangerous cargoes.”

Shippers (exporters) are expected to correctly declare and label dangerous goods.

Sri Lanka has seen a spike in smuggling and mis-declared cargo following import bans in 2020. A new plastic ban has also gone into effect. Deliberately mis-declaring cargo will also lead to accidents, even if human error was not responsible, an industry analyst said.

No oil leak has been found so far. (Colombo/June06/2021)

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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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