x-press pearl

Photo shows the X-Press Pearl as of June 2, 2020. Photo: Sri Lanka Ports Authority

X-Press Pearl Captain Arrested -Media

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 8950
June 14, 2021

Authorities in Sri Lanka have reportedly arrested the captain of the stricken X-Press Pearl which caught fire and sank off the coast of Colombo after a chemical leak last month, the Straits Times reported Monday.

The arrest comes after investigations into the incident and statements from the captain and others on board, including the chief engineer.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl, delivered only in February, reported smoke in a cargo hold after it arrived at a Colombo anchorage on May 20 carrying 1486 containers, including 81 Dangerous Goods Containers and 25 tonnes of Nitric Acid.

In the aftermath of the fire, it was revealed that prior to the ship’s arrival in Sri Lankan waters, one of the containers with nitric acid was discovered to be leaking. While the X-Press Pearl called Hamad Port in Qatar and Hazira Port in India for discharge and loading operations, they were unable to offload the leaking container as the ports lacked the specialized facilities and expertise to deal with the situation.

Despite fire-fighting efforts, the fire grew to engulf the entire vessel and the X-Press Pearl eventually sank as salvors were attempting to tow it to deeper waters. The ship’s stern is now resting on the bottom at depth of about 21 meters while the forward section remains partially afloat.

Although the ship’s operator reports that no noticeable fuel oil has spilled from the vessel, chemicals and small plastic pellets have been released into the environment and spread to nearby beaches and fishing grounds.

“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,” an update from X-Press Feeders dated June 12 said.

The ship is reported to be carrying 297 tonnes of Heavy Fuel Oil and 51 tonnes of Marine Fuel Oil.

“The salvors will 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,” the update said.

Reportedly the Sri Lankan government has already submitted a $40 million claim to recoup costs associated with the incident. By all accounts, the amount is likely to rise as the fallout from the incident is still being determined.

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