Owners will be asked to remove wreckage - MEPA | Sunday Observer
MV X-Press Pearl

Owners will be asked to remove wreckage - MEPA

5 June, 2021

The owners of the container ship X-Press Pearl which is sinking off the Colombo Port will be asked to remove the wreckage.

Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) General Manager Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara told the Sunday Observer that the wreckage is an impediment to the operations of the busy Colombo Port and they have already demarcated a 1km buffer zone around the ship.

The MEPA on Friday was keeping the boom equipment on standby to tackle any possible bunker oil leakage, once the wreckage of the MV X-Press Pearl sinks completely. The fire fighters and the experts observing the wrecked container ship said that the vessel will go down completely at any moment. The aft portion of the ship is currently touching the bottom at 21 metres.

Dr. Kerney said Sri Lankan fire fighters used 3,000 litres of alcohol-based foam and dry chemical on the source of the ship’s fire but the turbulent weather foiled all efforts to douse it.

He rejected a claim that the chemical induced blaze was aggravated by the water used to control the fire. “We used the water for boundary cooling which is an accepted method and not to douse the fire.

One of our main concerns was to protect the anchor area, so that the ship will not come loose and drift towards the coast,” he said. He, however, feared that if the rough weather continues, the use of booms to contain a possible oil leak would be futile.

“We still cannot get divers to inspect the ship’s oil tank due to the poor seawater clarity caused by the stormy weather, it will be risking lives,” he said adding that they could take out the bunker oil using another vessel if they can get a clear idea if the oil is still in the tank or if it has been burnt by the fire.

He said the process to assess the environmental damage and claim compensation would take a few more months, rejecting rumours that the Government missed out on obtaining compensation from the owners of the MT New Diamond, which caused a greater impact on the marine environment after facing a similar fate a few months ago.

Dr. Terney said the owners of the MT New Diamond, an oil tanker which caught fire off the Trincomalee Coast in September 2020, paid Rs.442 million to Sri Lanka as payment for dousing the fire and another Rs.12 million as fine for the ship’s captain. A further US$ 20 million has been sought as compensation for the environmental damage caused to Sri Lanka by the oil leak. It was a time-consuming civil case. The New Diamond was carrying 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil at the time, he added.

MV X-Press Pearl was transporting nearly 1,500 containers and 512 of them were to be unloaded at the Colombo Port. It was also carrying 25 tonnes of Nitric Acid among other hazardous and noxious substances which may have fallen to the sea.