ECONOMYNEXT – X-Press Pearl, a container vessel that caught fire while carrying hundreds of tonnes of caustic soda and a leaking acid container continued to sink into shallows off Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port, but no oil spill has been reported yet.
X-Press Feeders, the owners said a team of salvors boarded the ships still floating forward section on June 06 for an assessment.
The ships aft portion remains on the seabed at a depth of about 21 meters, and the forward section continues to settle down slowly. Salvors boarded a six-person team to the still floating bow area for assessment.
“They remain on scene to deal with any possible debris supported by the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, who have oil spill response capabilities on standby,” X-Press Feeders said.
The firm said representatives of Oil Spill Response, a firm hired to help with containment was working with Sri Lanka Navy and Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA).
MEPA has ordered salvors to remove any oil remaining on the ship as soon as possible.
Sri Lanka had deployed its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan involving over 15 agencies that had skills and resources in containing oil spills including ports and petroleum firms.
It is not clear whether there if 322 tonnes of bunkers and diesel had survived the fire. In addition to the engines, the vessel also had generators powering its systems.
The fire, which started on May 20 blazed for several days, fanned by high winds. It had reached the area around the oil tanks on May 24.
“We knew there were a little over 300 MT of different grades of oil on board at the time this incident happened,” Colombo Harbhour Master Captain Nirmal Silva told reporters last week.
“We had a discussion about the nature of the fire which took place on board. The experts who came are of the view that the oil would have burnt.
“The fire came near the oil tanks on 24th. There was a big blaze near the area. Based on the fire it can be assumed – it is the experts’ view – that the oil went up in flames.”
“But we not saying 100 percent there is no oil. We have to look at the worst-case scenario. We have to look at the possibility that there is some.”
Sri Lanka Air Force released pictures on June 07, showing the bow of the X-Press Pearl barely above water, with the stern and centre section fully underwater.
Caustic Soda ship
X-Press Pearl was carrying at least one container of nitric acid which had developed a leak when the fire started. Captain Silva had said the first fire started in the Number 02 hold.
According to available information, the nitric acid container was on Bay 11 on deck just above the hatch cover of the hold. Nitric acid is an International Maritime Organization Class 8 designated dangerous good that corrodes metal.
In the hold below both Bay 11 and Bay, 09 had solid caustic soda containers, which is also an IMDG Class 08 dangerous good that reacts exothermally with water and acid. The ship also carried sodium hydroxide further aft on Bay 17, Bay 19, Bay 23, Bay 25 and Bay 27 according to the available information.
Sri Lanka’s police said X-Press Peal’s chief officer had been questioned for two days over the stowage plan of the vessel. Bad packaging had been blamed for the acid lead. (Colombo/June07/2021)