Written by Zulfick Farzan
13 Jun, 2021 | 12:45 pm
COLOMBO (News 1st); Sri Lanka’s Port Trade Union has called on the Ministry of Ports and Shipping to conduct an immediate investigation into the X-Press Pearl container ship disaster.
In a letter addressed to the minister of ports and shipping, the All Ceylon General Ports Employee Union (ACGPEU) said the disaster could have been avoided if proper decisions were made during the period from when the ship laid anchor in Sri Lankan waters to the start of the fire on board.
The X-Press Pearl cargo ship that caught fire off western Sri Lanka has begun to sink, raising alarms over oil and chemical spills that could have potentially devastating impacts on the marine and coastal ecosystem.
The fire broke out on board the Singapore-flagged freighter on 20th May, and took more than a week to get under control.
A salvage crew who boarded the ship for an inspection after the fire found a breach in the stern and recommended that the ship be towed out to deeper waters to minimize any impact.
But the charred and stricken vessel began taking on water quickly; the towing operation had only managed to move it half a kilometer (0.3 miles) before the ship began sinking.
This latest development has sparked fears that the 300 metric tons of fuel oil in the ship’s tanks could leak.
Its rear section has hit the sea bed while the front remains above water as the sea there is shallow, and only about 21 meters (69 feet) deep.
The X-Press Pearl is brand new, having been completed in February this year and commissioned in March.
And while current indications are that its fuel tanks haven’t been breached, the possibility of a leak, especially after the fire that destroyed much of the hull, remains very real.
X-Press Feeders, the ship’s owner, said its salvage crew remains with the vessel to monitor its condition and any signs of an oil leak.
The X-Press Pearl had left the port of Hazira in western India carrying 1,486 containers when the fire started on May 20th off Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital.
Among its cargo are 81 containers of hazardous goods, including 25 metric tons of nitric acid — a key ingredient in the production of explosives, and touted as a possible factor for the fire on board.
A grey sheen continues to be observed emanating from the vessel. Discolouration of the sea has been apparent since the vessel’s stern became submerged, and the remnants of the cargo in the 1486 containers that were onboard were exposed to water.
“Most of the cargo seems to have incinerated by fire,” said Andrew Leahy, spokesman for X-Press Feeders.
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