June 16, 2021

In Sri Lanka, an environmental association files a complaint against the government after the sinking of a container ship

An environmental association filed a complaint on Friday, June 4, against the government of Sri Lanka and the owner of the container ship which burned off Colombo for nearly two weeks before partially sinking, raising fears of an oil spill. The Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, claiming Sri Lankan authorities should have been able to prevent what it called “Worst maritime disaster” of the country’s history.

The container ship X-Press Pearl, registered in Singapore, began to sink on Wednesday after being the victim of a fire that lasted thirteen days, off the capital. According to the CEJ, his crew was aware of an acid leak – which ended up causing the fire – as early as May 11, well before entering Sri Lankan territorial waters.

The Chairman (CEO) of the company that owns the ship, Shmuel Yoskovitz, apologized on Channel News Asia: “I want to express my deep regret and apologize to the people of Sri Lanka for the damage caused to their livelihoods and the environment of Sri Lanka. “ The island’s tourist beaches and the surrounding waters were flooded with millions of plastic pellets that the ship was carrying, causing in particular the ban on fishing, which is important in the region.

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350 tonnes of fuel and other toxic substances

International experts have come to Sri Lanka to join teams that have been preparing for a possible oil spill for several days. They belong to the two main organizations funded by shipowners to tackle pollution and oil spills from ships, the International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) and Oil Spill Response (OSR), X-Press Feeders reported. “They continue to act in coordination with the Sri Lankan Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and the Sri Lankan Navy to deal with a possible oil spill or other pollution”, the company added.

The still rough seas continued Friday to prevent divers from going to check the hull of the ship, whose stern now rests on the seabed at a depth of about 21 meters, while the forward part slowly sinks. And if there is for now no visible sign of leakage of the 350 tons of fuel that the ship was carrying, experts believe that the risk of an oil and toxic spill remains high in view of the ship’s shipping manifest. which indicates the presence of a large quantity of lubricants in addition to the “Dangerous cargo” 81 containers, including nitric acid and lead.

Read also Container ship fire off Sri Lanka brought under control, investigation into “worst beach pollution” in country’s history

An Indian ship with specialized equipment is already at the outpost to contain possible oil pollution before it reaches the coast. Oil dispersants, booms and surface skimmers are available at the slightest sign of a leak. Sri Lankan port official Nirmal Silva said Thursday that no leaks have been spotted so far. “Looking at the way the ship burned, the experts’ opinion is that the fuel may have burned, but we are still preparing for a worst-case scenario”, he explained.

The World with AFP