September 19, 2021

The sinking of the “X-Press Pearl”, a major ecological disaster for Sri Lanka

The concern is great in Sri Lanka, since the container ship MV X-Press Pearl partially sunk off its west coast on Wednesday, June 2. The Singaporean-flagged ship was ravaged by fire for thirteen days, while at anchor 11 kilometers off the Pamunugama Lagoon, a link between the capital, Colombo, and the idyllic beaches of Negombo.

She was about to be towed out to sea when her stern sank into the waters of the Indian Ocean “To land on the bottom, at a depth of about 21 meters”, said its owner, X-Press Feeders, one of the largest ocean carriers in the world. The accident happened at the worst time of the year. For about a month, the southwest coast of Sri Lanka has been swept by winds and monsoon rainfall. On Thursday, the sea was raised by waves 2 meters high, so the divers dispatched by the Dutch rescue company Smit had to abandon the detailed inspection of the sinking hull.

Leaking nitric acid

Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson Indika de Silva said “There is no oil leak from the ship yet, but devices are in place to respond to a possible spill”. The small neighboring island of India is nevertheless preparing for the oil spill, knowing that the MV X-Press Pearl contained 297 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 51 tonnes of marine fuel oil when it caught fire on May 20. With the help of the Indian Coast Guard, dispersants, booms and surface skimmers were routed around the vessel, so that they could be used in the event of a leak.

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The container ship was new. He set sail for the first time only three months ago and, as a result, “We can assume that it had good systems to prevent any leakage from its fuel tanks”, says lawyer Dan Gunasekera. Joined Thursday evening by The world, However, this specialist in international maritime transport is surprised by the unfolding of the events that led to this disaster: “The crew of the MV X-Press Pearl reported a nitric acid leak as early as May 11, while docked in the port of Hamad, Qatar, but local infrastructure not being equipped to repair it, the container ship resumed sea . “ He then made a stopover in the north-west of India, in the port of Hazira, “Where the conglomerate Adani, private manager, was not able to solve the problem either”. The ship continued on its way to Singapore and arrived in Sri Lanka, where the leak would eventually start the fire.

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