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A fire erupted in the cargo area of a containership anchored near Colombo, Sri Lanka on Thursday, and officials suspect chemicals could be to blame.
The Sri Lankan Navy said it received a distress call Thursday (May 20) afternoon from the containership X-Press Pearl reporting a fire on board as the ship was at an anchorage about 9.5 nautical miles northwest of Colombo harbor.
The Navy said the ship carried 1,486 containers, with 25 tons of Nitric Acid, several other chemicals and cosmetics, which it had loaded at the port of Hazira, India on May 15.
The container ship has a crew of 25, composed of Philippine, Chinese, Indian and Russian nationals.
An inspection of the vessel indicated the fire likely started as a result of a chemical reaction.
“[A] special team comprising Sri Lanka Navy and Ports Authority (SLPA) personnel got onboard the ship in the evening (20th) and inspected the situation onboard ship where they suspected that the fire was erupted due to a reaction to the chemicals being transported on the ship. Further, special teams of the Navy and Sri Lanka Coast Guard remain standby to respond to possible emergency situation and the SLPA tug is currently engaged to smother the flames erupted.
The incident response has involved two Offshore Patrol Vessels, the Sri Lanka Naval Ships (SLNS) Sagara and Sindurala, and a Fast Attack Craft. A tug from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority was also engaged in firefighting efforts.
The X-Press Pearl had arrived at the anchorage on Wednesday, May 19, and the ship was awaiting entry into Colombo harbor when the fire started.
The Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl was only recently delivered in February of this year. The ship’s operator, X-Press Feeders, confirmed the incident in a statement posted to its website:
“On 20th May 2021, an on deck container on board vessel “X-PRESS PEARL” (which is deployed in our Straits Middle East SMX service), caught fire whilst at Colombo Anchorage.
“The vessel had taken all precautionary measures throughout the night. However, firefighting is still underway with assistance of tugs sent by local authorities.
“Together with local authorities, X-Press Feeders is actively working on various solutions to put out the fire/smoke on board the vessel, whilst maintaining the safety of our crew.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and will duly inform affected customers of any developments.
“In the meantime, we are also looking into alternative options to ensure minimal disruption to our SMX service.”
More photos provided by the Sri Lankan Navy:
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