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Tuesday January 31st, 2023

X-Press Pearl salvors mull boarding as Sri Lanka eyes pollution claim

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka police began to questions the captain of the stricken X-Press Peal, as part of probe in to the disaster and an interim damage claim while vessels operators said salvors were considering boarding to tow the ship with the fire being controlled to a large extent.

Sri Lanka’s Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA), the Navy and Sri Lanka Ports Authority officials met the Attorney General on Monday.

MEPA Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura said the AG’s advice had been sought on the next steps and he had also raised queries.

Pollution

The MEPA and related agencies had been collecting air, water and soil samples and sending them laboratory tests.

“To get compensations for environmental damage we need a very accurate specialist’s report,” Lahandapura told reporters.

“From specialists in chemistry to environmental scientists and environmental economics are needed. We are now collecting the data in a scientific manner and preparing the report.

NARA senior scientist Deeptha Amaratunga told local television that plastic granules which fell off the ship had gone beyond the Western coast.

“As the wind patterns changed with the onset of the South West Monsoon, the debris is going further south,” he said.

Sri Lanka had already banned fishing on an 80 kilometre stretch.

Bottom dwelling fish are also turning up dead on Sri Lanka’s shores. Some had burn injuries. Other fish had plastic pellets on their gills.

At least one sea turtle had also turned up the on beach to the North of the wreck dazed. Another dead was also found local television reports said.

Sri Lanka was collecting the debris, some of which could have hazardous chemicals and storing them.

Compensation Claim

Lahandapura said under international convention about three years is given to submit a claim.

In the case of MT New Diamond, another ship, the environmental claim had been just submitted after three months of work, she said.

The ship paid 442 million rupees in immediate fire fighting costs and a 12 million rupee fine was imposed on the captain before departure.

For X-Press Pearl, Sri Lanka is also looking into an interim claim.

“We are trying to see an interim claims to before we calculate the full damage,” Lahandapura said.

“If there is negligence, or omissions, we will also take steps against the party.”

A police team took a statement from the X-Press Pearl’s captain on May 31, after visiting him for the second day at a hotel in Colombo, where the crew is quarantined.

Nipuna Wimalaskera, lawyers acting for the crew told reporters a day earlier that when the police first visited, he had requested more time as he did not have the ships documents in possession, which were with the agents at the time.

X-Press Pearl was insured for protection and indemnity (P&I), the London P&I Insurance Company (Europe) Ltd or London P&I Club.

If the ship breaks up and sinks there will be massive damage from oil spill, SPGlobal, a risk assessor said.

MEPA and Sri Lanka Navy have so far managed to prevent an oil spill. The Indian Coast Guard also came with pollution control vessels.

X-Press Feeders, the operators container said salvors are looking at boarding the ship, with the fire largely under control.

“Firefighting tugs will continue spraying and misting the vessel with support from the Sri Lankan Navy and Indian coastguard, who remain on scene,” X-Press Feeders said.

“Salvors are also exploring the possibility of boarding the ship and making a tow connection so it can be moved.”

Fire Mystery

X-Press Pearl caught fire on May 20, shortly after requesting assistance to re-work a leaking nitric acid container.

Whether the fire was linked to the acid is not established Colombo Port Harbour Master Nirmal de Silva said and will require surveyors to board the ship to investigate, he said.

The fire had first broken out in the number 2 hold, while the containers were staked on the deck.

The crew had put out the first outbreak. The distressed ship then called for help when the fire flared for a second time.

The port dispatched its fire tug and the Sri Lanka Navy also came to help and doused the fire which was also on the deck. Sri Lanka Navy leads search and rescue in the waters around Sri Lanka.

The operators had also called SMIT Salvage and firefighting tug had arrived on the scene within 6 hours of being called.

However high winds of around 60 knots, gusting over 70 had made it difficult for the firefighter when it flared again. The was also a heavy swell, Sri Lanka’s Navy chief said.

The 2,700 TUE X-Press Pearl had been on the Straits to Middle East service (SMX) of X-Press Feeders starting from Port Klang-Singapore-Jebel Ali to Port Hamad and the return journey via Hazira and Colombo back to Malaysia.

“This was a scheduled caller,” de Silva said. “This was the third voyage of this vessel. This vessel having being delivered in February made her first call to Colombo on the 17th of March and departed on the 18th.

The second call was on April 17 and the departure on April 18. It had arrived in Sri Lanka on May 19 for the third time. (Colombo/May31/2021)

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Sri Lanka shares down for 2nd day as tax hike, delay in Chinese debt assurance weigh

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s shares edged down on Tuesday as worries over delay in financial assurances from China which is mandatory for a $2.9 billion dollar IMF loan and rise in protests against tax hike kept investors in check, analysts said.

The main All Share Price Index (ASPI) edged down by 0.28 percent or 24.62 points to 8,865.05. It fell for the second session after hitting more than three-month high.

“The market is looking for more macro cues because of faster Chinese debt assurance was expected. The market is also hit by fall in corporate earnings due to high taxes,” an analyst said.

China has given an initial response on debt re-structuring to Sri Lanka though analysts familiar with the process say it is not a ‘hard assurance’ sufficient for the IMF program to go through.

The International Monetary Fund is working with China on extending maturities of Chinese loans to defaulted countries like Sri Lanka, as there is resistance to hair-cuts, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told reporters on January 14.
The earnings for first quarter are expected to be negative for many corporates with higher taxes and rising costs. However, investors had not expected earnings to be low in the December quarter because of year end pick ups on heavy counters, the analyst said.
Earnings in the second quarter of 2023 are expected to be more positive with the anticipation of IMF loan and possible reduction in the market interest rates as the tax revenue has started to generate funds.

However, the central bank said the IMF deal is likely in the first quarter or in the first month of the second quarter.

The most liquid index S&P SL20 dropped by 0.64 percent or 17.74 points to 2,764.51 points.

The central bank has said it could cut interest rates in future when the country sees fall in inflation, which has already started decelerating.

The market saw a turnover of 1.7 billion rupees, slightly lower than the month’s daily average of 1.8 billion rupees and while being significantly lower than 2022’s daily average turnover of 2.9 billion rupees.

The bourse saw a net foreign inflow (NFI) of 93 million rupees extending the net offshore buying to 413 million rupees so far this year.

Top losers were LOLC, Royal Ceramics Limited and Hayleys. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka exports fall in December as global recession weighs

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s merchandise exports earnings fell 9.7 percent in December year-on-year as the island nation saw a drop in buying from its key export destinations which are facing a looming recession after the Russia-Ukraine war.

The earnings from the merchandise exports recorded $1.04 billion  in December 2022 compared to the same month in the previous year as per the data released by the Sri Lanka Customs.

“This was mainly due to the decrease in export earnings from Apparel & Textiles, Tea, Rubber based Products, and Coconut based Products, Food & Beverages, Spices & Essential Oils and Fisheries products,” the Export Development Board (EDB) said in a statement.

“The reason for this decline was due to the ongoing recession in major markets due to rising cost of production, energy etc. Imports declined sharply due to inflation and demand for goods and services are reduced.”

However, Sri Lanka saw a record export earning of $13.1 billion in 2022 due to increased demand in the key exports throughout the year

Earnings from all major product sectors except Electrical & Electronic components as well as Diamonds, Gems & Jewellery fell in December.

Exports of Apparel & Textiles decreased by 9.6 percent to $480.3 million in December 2022.  Export earnings from Tea fell by 3 percent to $107.3 million, Rubber and Rubber Finished products dropped 20.3 percent to $74.5 million,

However, export earnings from the Electrical & Electronics Components increased by 16.18 percent to $42.9 million in December 2022, while Diamond, Gems & Jewelry jumped 35.7 percent to $30.8 million. (Colombo/Jan31/2023)

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Sri Lanka records over 6,000 dengue cases in first three weeks of January

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka recorded over than 6,000 dengue cases in the first three weeks of January 2023 after a spell of heavy monsoon rain though a drop in cases is likely from February, officials said.

Health officials identified 6,204 dengue patients by January 22, up from 5,793 recorded in the corresponding period last year.

“A rise in cases can be observed in the November-January period with the heavy rain due to the northeast monsoon,” an official from the National Dengue Control Unit told EconomyNext.

Of all reported cases, 46.3 percent were from the Western Province, official reports showed.

Akuressa, Batticaloa, Eravur, Trincomalee, Madampe, Badulla, Eheliyagoda, Kegalle, Kalmunai North and Alayadivembu MOH areas were identified as high-risk areas for dengue during the third week of January by the health officials.

“We are expecting a decline in dengue cases soon. The Western province is always in the top position with the highest number of dengue cases. Apart from that, we are seeing a higher number of cases during this period in areas like Puttalam, Jaffna districts. A certain number of cases have also been recorded in the Kandy district,” the official said.

“Usually the cases peak in December, but they decline by February. This year, too, we are facing this scenario. There is an increase of dengue during the months of November, December and January”.

Due to the economic situation in the country, the Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) in an earlier report said, diesel and pesticides are not being provided by the ministry.

However, rejecting the allegation, the official from the NDCU said the government has provided enough funds for get the necessary pesticides but it is being used according to a scientific method to avoid building a resistance in the dengue mosquito.

“The recommendation is to do the fogging if there is a dengue outbreak or if there are few patients reported from the same locality.

“If you use this pesticide haphazardly, the mosquitos will develop resistance against it,” the official said, adding that there are adequate stocks of the chemical available. (Colombo/ Jan 31/2023)

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