X-Press Feeders, operator of the fire-stricken container ship X-Press Pearl, has reported three of the remaining four former crew members of the vessel had their travel bans lifted by a Sri Lankan court on Tuesday. The Russian captain is still not allowed to leave Sri Lanka.
The crew members have been in Colombo since being evacuated from the X-Press Pearl while it was on fire on 25 May 2021. The first eleven seafarers of the container ship X-Press Pearl were able to go home in July, another four had their travel ban lifted in December.
Arrangements are currently being made for the immediate repatriation of the three crew released. They have been forced to remain in Colombo, Sri Lanka since their evacuation from the vessel on May 25, 2021.
X-Press Feeders says it continues to work with the Sri Lankan authorities towards the further lifting of the travel ban for the Russian captain, Vitaly Tyutkalo, the only remaining crew member. He has now been away from his family for nine months and remains housed at a hotel in Colombo. The shipping company says the long separation is taking a toll on his mental and physical health.
X-Press Pearl fire and sinking
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 2021. 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 ship has since been resting on the seabed, with X-Press Feeders waiting for the Monsoon to pass for the salvage to be executed. The salvage plan was recently announced and involves the ship being cut into two.
Since the fire, a big clean-up operation has been underway as the ship lost containers and cargo overboard, most notably, it caused the largest plastic pellet spill on record.
Picture by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority.