Officials reported late in the day that joint firefighting efforts were making progress in reducing the blaze aboard the container ship X-Press Pearl. The ship, which remains anchored nine nautical miles off Sri Lanka, is a total loss and fears remain that it will sink before the blaze is extinguished. At the same time, requests for an investigation into the incident are increasing and Sri Lanka has already started to take steps to bring charges against the captain and the vessel.
Firefighting tugs constantly sprayed and fogged the vessel with the support of the Sri Lankan Navy and Indian Coast Guard X-Press Feeders operators. A total of nine ships from Sri Lanka and three from India as well as the rescue company were involved in the fight against the fire and supported by flame retardant chemicals dropped from the air. Overnight, the Indian Coast Guard transferred supplies of dry energy and fire-fighting equipment to Sri Lanka to aid in the joint effort.
Indian Coast Guard
#Neighbourhood first #Fire onboard #MVXPressPearl off #Colombo. Firefighting operation supported by #ICG Ships in coordination with Sri Lanka has deployed tugs underway. Significantly reduced fire. Received by #ICG Dornier aircraft. No oil spill detected. DDNewsLive
Posted by Indian Coast Guard on Thursday, May 27, 2021
Despite progress in reducing the fire aboard the ship, Sri Lankan navy officials have warned the blaze is likely to last for days. They noted, however, that the exchange of fire was now facilitated by improving weather conditions with weaker winds and seas.
Sri Lanka’s Marine Environmental Protection Authority has already opened an investigation following media reports that the crew discovered a chemical leak in the containers while the vessel was sailing from the Middle Orient to India. MEPA wonders why the captain anchored off Colombo when he was aware of the danger.
The operator of the ship issued a statement refuting media reports that after discovering the leak, the ship was denied entry into ports, which could have averted the disaster. “Reports that the vessel was denied entry into the port of Hazira in India and the port of Hamad in Qatar is incorrect,” X-Press Feeders said in response to an unconfirmed story in maritime media . They noted that the ship had called at both ports on its route. “Requests had been made to both ports to unload a container that was leaking nitric acid, but the advice given was that there were no specialist facilities or expertise immediately available to deal with the leak. ‘acidic,’ reported X-Press Feeders.
Container and debris on shore (Sri Lanka Navy)
Sri Lanka’s MEPA officials continue to prepare for the potential of an oil spill, although recognition by the Indian Coast Guard has denied reports of an oil leak from the container ship. The MEPA said it was concerned that the hull of the X-Press Pearl had been compromised by the fire and could break if they attempted to tow the vessel further offshore in the current rough waters.
At least eight containers from the nearly 1,500 load on board have fallen into the ocean and at least one has already washed up on shore. Sri Lanka police yesterday warned they would take action against looters carrying items on the beach and today announced that eight people have been arrested. Sri Lanka has also posted guards on the beach to prevent people from coming into contact with the contents of containers that have fallen overboard. They warned that some of the containers that fell overboard may have carried the dangerous chemicals known to be on board the ship. The manifests show the ship was carrying 25 tons of nitric acid along with other chemicals used to make cosmetics.
Police Guarding the Shore (Sri Lanka Navy)