X-Press Feeders, operators of the container ship X-Press Pearl, have sent a specialised salvors tug from Malaysia for caretaker duties. In addition, drones have been flown in and will be deployed onsite to help with the ongoing monitoring activities.
The ship operator has also reported that caretaker salvors onsite continue to observe a grey sheen emanating from the wreck. However, it has lessened over the last week. It is still unclear what kind of substance is leaking from the ship. The caretakers salvors are said to remain onsite on a 24-hour watch to deal with any possible debris and report any form of a spill.
Representatives of International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd (ITOPF) and Oil Spill Response are monitoring updates from the scene and are ready to deploy in case of any reported spill.
Initial payment of compensation
Ashore discussions are underway to provide an initial payment of funds to help compensate those affected by the consequences of the fire and resulting pollution and help cover clean-up costs, reports X-Press Feeders. The company also says it continues to make machinery available for shoreline clean up but this remains limited by the current Covid-19 lockdown in deploying manpower.
A seafarer injured during the vessel’s evacuation was released from hospital on Saturday 26 June to join fellow crew members at a local hotel. Meanwhile, select crew continue to assist Sri Lankan police with the investigation into the incident.
Major container ship fire
While waiting at the outer harbour of the Port of Colombo for a berth to carry out scheduled container handlings, a fire broke out on the X-Press Pearl on 20 May. After thirteen days of firefighting, the fire was contained. Due to bad weather and structural damage, however, the vessel’s sinking could not be prevented. The cause of the fire was allegedly a container leaking nitric acid.
The leaking chemicals and cargo from the ship are said to have caused considerable environmental damage. However, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority maintains there has not been an oil spill so far.
The ship now rests on the seabed and remains stable for now. Ship operator X-Press Feeders has said salvage of the wreck will probable have to wait until the Monsoon has passed.
Picture by Sri Lanka Ports Authority.