Written by Zulfick Farzan
05 Nov, 2021 | 11:57 am
COLOMBO (News 1st); An investigation has revealed that around 400 pieces of debris including freight containers from the X-Press Pearl are resting in the sea bed off the western coast of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), Navy (SLN), and National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) conducted a joint expedition in the ocean to record evidence of debris recently.
MEPA told News 1st that the process of removing the debris from the bottom of the ocean will commence in the coming days by a company appointed by X-Press Feeders, the operators of the X-Press Pearl.
Apart from the 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, the vessel was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid.
MEPA also told News 1st that a vessel that will be used to retrieve the debris from the ocean floor has already closed in on the Colombo Port, and it was sent to Sri Lanka by the X-Press Feeders.
MEPA said the process of clearing the debris will be directly supervised by them after obtaining the necessary approvals from the other stakeholders.
On May 20, 2021, Singapore -flagged Containership, ‘X-Press Pearl’ reported smoke from the cargo hold while at Colombo anchorage, Sri Lanka.
On May 21, the vessel reported fire on deck. Firefighting tugs were deployed by the port authority and a helicopter provided support to help fight the fire. The ship’s crew assisted with boundary cooling of the area.
On May 22, the sound of an explosion was heard in cargo hold #2.
Tugs continued the firefighting operation with Posh Teal, Posh Hardy, Megha, Hercules, Mahawewa deployed.
12 crew members disembarked from the vessel on May 23 to make way for a 12-person firefighting team. The firefighting team continued the operation in conjunction with water spraying tugs on site.
By May 24, the fire had intensified and was spreading toward the aft of the vessel.
A further and louder explosion was heard on May 25, and as a prudent measure, it was decided to evacuate all 13 crew and the firefighting team of 12.
The crew and firefighting team were transferred to a quarantine facility ashore.
Firefighting tugs were operating on-site throughout May 26, with the assistance of Sri Lankan Navy helicopters and vessels and two Indian Coastguard vessels.
On May 27, efforts to extinguish the fire on board were ongoing with firefighting tugs, the Sri Lankan Navy, and the Indian coastguard remaining on scene.
An inspection team was able to board the vessel on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 1, and reported the engine room flooded.
There are concerns over the amount of water in the hull and its effect on the ship’s stability.
Efforts to make a connection for towing failed after several attempts due to the tug’s movement caused by the swell. The operation was aborted for safety reasons.
Despite salvors subsequently boarding the vessel on June 2 and attaching a tow wire, efforts to move the ship to deeper waters failed, and the ships aft portion sank to the bottom at a depth of 21 meters.
Oil Spill Response Limited is appointed to respond to any possible spill and is liaising with ITOPF, who will provide technical expertise.
The ship eventually settled in the seabed off Sri Lankan shores.
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