Friday, June 18, 2021 | Dhu al-Qaadah 7, 1442 H
clear sky
weather
OMAN
32°C / 32°C
EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Foreign experts deployed for Sri Lanka oil spill

With the ship's stern now on the sea bed and the bow slowly sinking, environmentalists fear an oil leak could cause even greater degradation to marine life
A ship approaches near the Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl that partially sunk after burning for almost two weeks, just outside Colombo's harbour. - AFP
A ship approaches near the Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl that partially sunk after burning for almost two weeks, just outside Colombo's harbour. - AFP

COLOMBO: Foreign experts have been deployed to help Sri Lanka contain a potential oil leak from a burnt-out container ship partially sunk off Colombo, the ship's operator said Friday.


Representatives from the International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) and Oil Spill Response (OSR) were onshore monitoring the MV X-Press Pearl, X-Press Feeders said.


"They continue to coordinate with MEPA (Marine Environment Protection Authority) and the Sri Lankan navy on an established plan to deal with any possible spill of oil and other pollutants," the company said.


Its chief executive, Shmuel Yoskovitz, apologised to Sri Lanka for the disaster, which saw the ship burn for 13 days and inundated the island's beaches with huge amounts of plastic pellets.


"I'd like to express my deep regrets and apologies to the Sri Lankan people for the harm this incident has caused to the livelihood and to the environment of Sri Lanka," Yoskovitz told Channel News Asia.


With the ship's stern now on the sea bed and the bow slowly sinking, environmentalists fear an oil leak could cause even greater degradation to marine life.


Choppy seas and poor visibility prevented navy divers from checking the hull for a second day Friday, Sri Lanka navy spokesperson Indika de Silva said.


He said a team reached the sinking vessel and made a cursory inspection on Thursday, but could not carry out their mission because of poor visibility.


Meanwhile, the MEPA has placed oil dispersants and skimmers should the vessel leak its 350 tonnes of fuel oil on board.


An Indian coastguard vessel in the area has equipment to deal with any oil slick, according to the Sri Lankan navy, which has requested assistance with the operation.


Sri Lanka's Harbour Master Nirmal Silva said Thursday that no oil had leaked so far.


"Looking at the way the ship burnt, expert opinion is that bunker oil may have burnt out, but we are preparing for the worst-case scenario," Silva said.


The vessel was carrying 81 containers of "dangerous cargo" including acids and lead ingots.


The escape of microplastic granules from the ship's cargo has already forced a fishing ban and prompted concern for the marine environment as well as the local economy.


Sri Lankan authorities believe the fire was caused by a nitric acid leak which the crew apparently knew about nine days before the blaze started.


Police said three officers from the ship -- two Russians and an Indian -- had been questioned and their passports impounded.


The Singapore-registered ship was heading to Colombo from India. Its 25 crew members were evacuated last week. Two suffered minor injuries.


Meanwhile, Sri Lanka's private Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) fears the disaster may also cause heavy metal pollution.


The vessel was carrying 81 containers of "dangerous cargo" including acids and lead ingots.


"There is a chemical soup in that sea area," CEJ executive director Hemantha Withanage said. "The damage to the marine ecosystem is incalculable."


However, he said the silver lining was that there was no sign of an oil spill yet. Some oil was spotted near the beaches of Negombo, about 40 kilometres from Colombo, but the cause was not clear. - AFP


SHARE ARTICLE
Most Read
No Image
The Chedi Muscat makes official statement Riyada clarifies on expatriate permit fees Muscat Municipality to close Wadi Kabeer road Mutated variants of coronavirus recorded in Oman
FOLLOW US
arrow up
home icon