Posted June 3, 2021 1:18 pm by

ColomboSri Lanka, June 3 – A cargo ship is sinking off Sri Lanka’s main port of Colombo after a 13-day fire that already caused the island’s worst marine environmental damage.

The Indian Ocean nation is now battling to avert a possible oil leak that would compound the pollution caused by tonnes of plastic that have swamped beaches.


– How big is the ship? –


The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl is almost brand new, made in China and commissioned in February.

Its overall length is 186 metres (610 feet), about the size of one and a half football pitches. The height is about 45 meters (150 feet) and width is 34 meters (112 feet).

It is built to carry 2,700 containers. Gross tonnage is 31,600.

The ship was heading to Colombo from Gujarat in India when the blaze started, having previously visited Qatar and Dubai.


– What was in its cargo? –


There were 1,486 containers on board. Out of that, 81 containers were classified as holding “dangerous cargo.”

There were 25 tonnes of nitric acid, 28 containers of plastic pellets as well as a container listed as “environmentally hazardous substance liquid.”

A large quantity of lubricants, food, cosmetics, lead ingots and a few vehicles were also on board.


– How did the fire start? –


Sri Lanka’s Environmental Protection Authority suspects it was triggered by a nitric acid leak that had started on May 11 before the vessel entered Sri Lankan waters.

Ports in Qatar and India had refused to offload the leaking nitric acid and the vessel arrived in Sri Lanka with the leak.

The first fire reported on May 20 was put out by the vessel’s crew using its own firefighting equipment, but two hours later the ship issued an appeal for help from Sri Lanka’s port authority.


– How was the fire put out? –


Tugs from the Colombo port and the Sri Lanka navy attempted to douse the flames but strong monsoon winds spread the fire and made the operation difficult.

Using water to douse the chemical fire may have also fanned the flames.

Help was then sought from India’s coastguard on May 25 and the Dutch salvage firm SMIT was also called in by the owners of the vessel.

Finally, the fire was declared extinguished on June 1 after much of the cargo was incinerated.


– What is the ecological damage? –


Sri Lanka is yet to estimate the impact and has asked Australia to help prepare an assessment.

However, tonnes of plastic pellets carried Read More…