Fire-stricken X-Press Pearl sinks. No oil pollution, says operator

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Chemical-laden feeder containership X-Press Pearl, which has been burning for almost two weeks off Sri Lanka’s coast, sank yesterday and touched the sea bottom, the Indian Coast Guard informed.

“The ship’s aft portion is sitting on the seabed at a depth of about 21 meters, and the forward section continues to settle down slowly.  Salvors remain on scene to deal with any possible debris supported by the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, who have oil spill response capabilities on standby,” Singapore-based X-Press Feeders, operator of the ship, said.

Based on the latest updates, there has been no oil spill detected from the ship which is carrying an estimated 300,000 metric tons of fuel in its tanks.

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The ship’s cargo poses a major threat of environmental pollution to the area, as the vessel was carrying 1,486 containers with 25 tons of Nitric Acid, several other chemicals, and cosmetics.

As reported previously, a considerable number of pallets with chemicals are believed to have ended up in the sea causing massive damage to the marine environment in the area.

Debris and charred containers which have fallen overboard the stricken vessel have been washing ashore for days triggering massive clean-up operations.

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Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL) has been appointed to respond to any possible spill and is liaising with International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), who will provide technical expertise.

X-Press Feeders said that both OSRL and ITOPF have people on the ground in Colombo coordinating with the Sri Lankan Navy on an established plan to deal with any possible spill of oil and other pollutants.

The ship’s sinking is being reported on the back of the company’s unsuccessful efforts to try to tow the vessel away from the coastline. Salvors managed to board the ship on Tuesday afternoon, only to determine that the engine room was flooded as a result of firefighting efforts, causing concerns over its stability.

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