Photo: Image credit: High Commission of India in Sri Lanka

X-Press Pearl insurer agrees to pay initial compensation claim

Insurers of the feeder containership MV X-Press Pearl, which was hit by a fire before it sank off Colombo Port at the beginning of June, have agreed to pay a part of the initial settlement claim for the damages caused by the incident.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Justice said that the P&I Club of the vessel would pay approximately Rs. 720 million (around $3.6 million) as part of the settlement of the first interim claim. The rest of the claim is reportedly being processed.

According to the State Fisheries Minister Kanchana Wijesekara, the amount will be distributed to the local fishermen affected most by the incident next week

The local fishing community is among those considerably impacted by the sinking of the vessel, as their livelihoods depend on the local marine life.

Sri Lankan authorities filed a claim with the operator of the ill-fated feeder earlier this month, seeking $40 million to compensate for the environmental damages caused by the ship’s sinking. The ministry also plans to seek compensation for costs incurred from firefighting efforts.

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X-Press Feeders, operators of the container ship, said last week that discussions on the initial compensation payment for the incident were launched.

“Ashore discussions are underway to provide an initial payment of funds to help compensate those affected by the consequences of the fire and resulting pollution and help cover clean-up costs,” the company said.

“We continue to make machinery available for shoreline clean-up but remain limited by the current Covid-19 lockdown in deploying manpower.”

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 before it sank.

A considerable number of pallets with chemicals are believed to have ended up in the sea causing damage to the marine environment in the area. Local media reports indicate that bodies of turtles, sea mammals, seabirds, and fish have been washing up on the country’s beaches in addition to debris from the wreck. 

Following the fire, it is believed that most of the chemicals and materials in the ship decomposed and may have been released into the atmosphere as a chemical vapor. Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) of Sri Lanka has requested National Building Research Organization to conduct an impact study into the air pollution impact from the X-Press Pearl’s fire.

The impact assessment has revealed that between 8000 and 13000 metric tons of air pollutants were released into the atmosphere depending on the amount of burn mass from the incident.

However, the real impact of the accident is yet to be assessed.

A UN team of oil spill and chemical experts, provided by the European Union (EU), is working with the Sri Lankan Government to determine the incident’s impact on the environment. The group is set to produce an independent UN report on the incident with key findings and recommendations on short-term response measures and longer-term recovery planning, which will be submitted to the government.

Meanwhile, caretakers salvors continue to observe a grey sheen emanating from the wreck, which the company claims lessened over the last week. Salvors remain onsite on a 24-hour watch to deal with any possible debris and report any form of a spill.

​As informed, a specialised salvors tug has arrived from Malaysia to take over the caretaker duties and drones have been flown in and will be deployed onsite to help with the ongoing monitoring activities.

Collaborative cleanup efforts on local beaches remain underway led by the Sri Lanka’s Navy, Airforce as well as local volunteers.

The Indian Navy continues providing support, with its ship Sarvekshak deployed to survey the area around the wreck. As informed, some 54 objects were discovered off Colombo during a 208 mile-long side-scan sonar survey. Aerial reconnaissance also progressed to facilitate survey effort.

#OperationSagarAaraksha2Indian Navy ship Sarvekshak deployed for survey around #mvxpresspearl off #Colombo detected…

Posted by India in Sri Lanka (High Commission of India, Colombo) on Monday, June 28, 2021


X-Press Feeders added that the seafarer injured during the vessel’s evacuation was set to be released and join fellow crewmembers at a local hotel.

Finally, a select group of crew members continues to assist Sri Lankan police with the investigation into the incident.

To remind, the Russian skipper of the X-Press Pearl, Vitaly Tyutkalo, appeared in court without charge supported by the company’s lawyers in the middle of June. He was released on bail.