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Tanker fire update: Sri Lankan authorities seek international help to deal with possible oil spill

FILE PHOTO -MT New Diamond carrying 270,000 tons of Crude Oil is on fire off Sri Lanka’s East Coast

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka does not have the technical capacity to deal with a massive oil spill if a stricken oil tanker burning off the east coast discharges its cargo into the sea, officials warned.

Dharshani Lahandapura, Chair of the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) told EconomyNext that if the cargo and the diesel on board 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. The vessel has a carrying capacity of 2.9 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, a crude oil carrier is on fire 38 kilometers off Sri Lanka’s East coast and about half of the crew except the skipper and some officers have been boarded lifeboats, the Sri Lanka Navy said.

The Navy Spokesman, Captain Indika de Silva told EconomyNext that he fire had begun in the Engine Room and the crew was attempting to bring it under control.

The vessel is the MT New Diamond and was heading to the Paradip Port in India carrying crude oil from Kuwait.

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The environmental danger posed by the stricken tanker is serious and steps are being taken to limit the damage officials were quoted in the media as saying.

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)

Edited by Arjuna Ranawana

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