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Wednesday October 5th, 2022

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.


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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