X-press pearl fire

The X-Press Pearl pictured May 26, 2021. Photo courtesy Sri Lanka Ports Authority

X-Press Pearl Looking Worse for Wear as Raging Fire Continues to Burn

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 27501
May 26, 2021

The X-Press Pearl is looking a little worse for wear today as the fire continues to burn for a sixth day at an anchorage off Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Efforts to contain the fire are on-going, but any progress would appear futile at this point.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority is now working with others, including SMIT Salvage, on how to best mitigate the impact of the incident.

The fire on the X-Press Pearl started May 20 as the ship was awaiting entry to Colombo harbor at an offshore anchorage approximately 9.5 nautical miles from the entrance to the port. On board are (were) 1,486 containers, including 25 tons of Nitric Acid and other chemicals which it had loaded at the port of Hazira, India on May 15.

Preliminary investigations indicate the fire started due to a chemical reaction of the hazardous cargo.

While dousing of the fire appeared to be successful initially, the fire exploded in intensity on Tuesday and the ship was evacuated. It now seems that the fire has engulfed the entire vessel.

At least one fire-burned container and other debris has washed ashore in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka Navy reports that the Indian Coast Guard Maritime Pollution Control Ships ‘Vajra’ and ‘Vaibhav’ have been deployed to the site.

Reporting indicates the vessel owners have declared General Average and the 3-month-old ship, delivered only in February, is a total constructive loss.

An update from X-Press Feeders, the ship’s operator, said all crew are safe but two suffered leg injuries during the evacuation of the ship on Tuesday:

“X-Press Feeders, operators of the container ship ‘X-Press Pearl’ (IMO: 9875343) report that efforts to extinguish the fire onboard are ongoing with three firefighting tugs, helicopters and the Sri Lankan Navy and Indian coastguard on scene. The vessel remains at anchor off Colombo port with fire fighters and salvage experts flown in from Europe working with the local authorities in their efforts to save the vessel and its cargo, despite the adverse weather due to the onset of South West monsoons.

“The two crew members who received leg injuries during their evacuation from the ship on the morning of Tuesday, May 25 remain in hospital in a stable condition. One of the seafarers has since tested positive to Covid-19 and has been transferred to a special facility in a military hospital for further treatment, he remains asymptomatic. The other 23 crew members are in a Colombo quarantine facility and are in good health.

“The crew members are in contact with their families and X-Press Feeders will continue to liaise with customers about their cargo.

Meanwhile, the maritime website Splash247 reports an acid leak on board the ship was known prior to its arrival in Sri Lankan waters and the ship was denied refuge denied discharge of the impacted container in both India and Qatar.

More footage of the burning X-Press Pearl:

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