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Operations under way to minimise environmental impact of sinking ship off Sri Lanka: MPA

Operations under way to minimise environmental impact of sinking ship off Sri Lanka: MPA

Smoke rises from a fire onboard the X-Press Pearl vessel as it sinks while being towed into deep sea off the Colombo Harbour, in Sri Lanka on Jun 2, 2021. (Photo: Sri Lanka Airforce Media via Reuters)

SINGAPORE: The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said on Wednesday (Jun 2) that operations are under way to minimise the environmental impact of a Singapore-registered container ship at risk of sinking off Sri Lanka.

The X-Press Pearl had caught fire on May 20 in the waters of Sri Lanka after departing from the Indian port of Hazira, burning for 13 days before the blaze was extinguished on Tuesday.

READ: Crippled ship at risk of sinking off Sri Lanka

READ: Sri Lanka facing marine disaster from burning ship: Environment official

"As the flag state, the MPA has been in constant communication with the Sri Lankan authorities, ship operator, and classification society on efforts to stabilise the ship, put out the fire, and put in place measures to reduce the extent of environmental impact," it said.

Sri Lankan navy members pull a sack of debris washed off to a beach from the X-Press Pearl container ship on May 28, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte) FILE PHOTO: Sri Lankan navy members pull a sack with debris washed off to a beach from the MV X-Press Pearl container ship, which caught fire off the Colombo Harbour, on a beach in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka May 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

MPA said that it had earlier offered to provide assistance to Sri Lankan authorities, and has directed the ship operator to cooperate fully with the them. 

It has also instructed the ship operator to adhere to measures to minimise the environmental impact, and to continue to deploy resources to clean up the sea as much as possible. 

According to MPA, the ship operator is working with the salvors to continue with the salvage operations.

"MPA further understands that the Sri Lankan authorities are investigating the cause of the incident," said the authority, adding that it has also commenced its own investigation.

Navy personnel remove debris washed ashore from the Singapore-registered container ship X-Press Pearl. (Photo: AFP/Ishara S. KODIKARA)

Based on an update from the ship operator on Wednesday, while the fire on board has been put out, the ship's condition has deteriorated, said MPA.

"MPA understands that the ship’s stern is now submerged, and the ship may be at risk of sinking," it said.

MPA also stated that its records indicate the X-Press Pearl, registered as a Singapore flag in February, had been delivered from the shipyard in the same month with the full set of applicable class and statutory certificates.

READ: Plastics from burning ship cover Sri Lanka beach

READ: Sri Lanka questions crew of burning cargo ship crew after marine disaster

The incident is Sri Lanka's worst marine ecological disaster, with huge volumes of microplastic granules from the X-Press Pearl's containers having already inundated beaches, forcing a fishing ban and a major clean-up involving thousands of troops.

Authorities now fear an even greater disaster should the ship's 297 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 51 tonnes of marine fuel oil leak into the Indian Ocean.

Officials believe the blaze destroyed most of the 1,486 containers on board.

Eighty-one containers were carrying chemicals, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid which had been leaking since May 11, nine days before the fire broke out.

The 25-strong crew was evacuated last week. One was admitted to hospital with minor injuries.

Source: CNA/ic

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