ECONOMYNEXT – Indian Coat Guard vessels and an aircraft is keeping watch over a still smouldering feeder vessel X-Press Pearl anchored 9.5 kilometres off Sri Lanka’s coast to prevent a possible oil leak, officials said.
Sri Lanka Navy asked Indian support when a fire X-Press Pearl fire worsened in strong winds.
“When the fire intensified there was a big risk of the ship breaking up and spilling oil,” Sri Lanka’s Navy Commander Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne said.
“Therefore we asked for Indian help. The Indian Coast Guard vessels have the equipment to contain an oil spill. They are on stand-by in case there is an oil leak.”
Ulugetenne said by May 28 the fire was out on the forepart of the ship but smoke was still coming out. Flames were still seen in the stern section.
However the risk of break up was now reduced, he said. The ship had over 300 tonnes of bunkers on board when it caught fire on May 20.
India’s High Commission in Colombo said firefighters had been focusing on the bow area and protecting the anchor and associated machinery and were now shifting to the stern.
“At present, heavy smoke is observed only near accommodation/ Superstructure area in aft portion of the ship and is being tackled,” the statement said.
“Overall, the MV X Press Pearl is currently assessed as being stable and not having issues with water tight integrity.”
An Indian Coast Guard Dornier aerial reconnaissance craft was also on the job and has confirmed no oil leak up to now.
“CG Dornier will continue to conduct regular aerial assessment of the area by for oil spill.”
“The ICG ships will continue to assess the situation and the decision to board or approach closer to the vessel will be taken after fully dousing the fire and undertaking sufficient boundary cooling.”
Pictures released by the Indian Coast Guard on May 29 morning showed the X-Press Pearl covered in smoke and steam with an ICG vessel spraying water on the bow section at close quarters.
MV X-Press Pearl caught fire on May 20 while anchored in the outer harbhour of Colombo Port shortly after seeking assistance to re-work a leaking acid container.
However it is not conclusive that the fire, which had originated in the number 02 hold had any link to the leaking container which was stacked on the deck, Colombo Ports, Harbhour Master Nirmal de Silva said. (Colombo/May29/2021)