A salvage attempt of the burnt-out cargo ship X-Press Pearl has failed and it has now partly sunk off the coast of Sri Lanka. The damage to the environment caused by the burning and leaking chemicals and plastic is enormous, according to the navy. But leaking oil, which is already flowing into the water, may make it an even bigger environmental disaster.
The ship fire was extinguished on Monday after thirteen days. The ship was carrying all kinds of chemicals and plastic. Much of it ended up in the water and the nearby beaches are full of microplastics. The Dutch company Smit Salvage helped extinguish the fire on the X-Press Pearl.
The back of the ship has already disappeared completely under water and rests on the bottom of the sea at a depth of 22 metres. The bow still floats. The navy, together with Smit, had started to move the ship to deeper water, but that was stopped because the ship is too unstable. This was partly due to the large quantities of water used to extinguish the fire.
— Sri Lanka Ports Authority (@slpauthority) June 2, 2021
The boat had to be moved to reduce the ecological impact of the impending major oil spill off the Sri Lankan coast. The country has already taken precautions to prevent nearby bays from being polluted by the oil spill.
Sri Lanka has launched a criminal investigation into the fire. The three highest ranking crew members of the ship, two Russians and an Indian, are not allowed to leave the country until the investigation is completed. Calls for prosecution are growing louder in Sri Lanka as fishermen see their livelihoods destroyed by water pollution.
Pictures by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.