Photo: Image courtesy: Indian Coast Guard

X-Press Pearl’s captain released on bail after appearing before court

Captain of the fire-stricken feeder, which was carrying Nitric Acid and other chemicals before it sank off Colombo, Sri Lanka, two weeks ago, has been released on bail after appearing in the High Court of Sri Lanka, operator of the vessel confirmed.

As informed, the Russian skipper of the X-Press Pearl, Vitaly Tyutkalo, appeared in court without charge supported by the company’s lawyers.

AFP reports that the captain is suspected of committing an offense under the Marine Pollution Prevention Act.

Sri Lankan authorities have filed a claim with the operator of the ill-fated feeder X-Press Pearl seeking $40 million to compensate for the environmental damages caused by the ship’s sinking. Sri Lanka’s Ports and Shipping Ministry reportedly also plans to seek compensation for costs incurred from firefighting efforts.

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Meanwhile, Singapore-based X-Press Feeders said that the vessel’s bow and forecastle deck are now submerged, adding that the forward section of the hull continues to slowly settle to the seabed at a depth of 21 meters.

According to the update, there has been no noticeable fuel oil spill, and some minor debris has been collected.

​”A grey sheen continues to be observed emanating from the vessel, and discolouration of the sea in and around the wreck remains. This has been apparent since the vessel’s stern became submerged, and the remnants of the cargo in the 1486 containers that were onboard were exposed to seawater,” X-Press Feeders said.

​”The salvors will remain on scene to deal with any possible debris supported by the Sri Lankan Navy and Coast Guard, who have oil spill response capabilities on standby.”

The shipowner added that representatives of ITOPF and Oil Spill Response are monitoring updates from the scene and are ready to deploy in case of any reported spill.

Furthermore, the crew members who tested positive for COVID-19 upon evacuation from the vessel have all returned negative PCR tests and are out of quarantine and housed in local hotels. The two seafarers recovering from leg injuries remain under hospital care, the update further reads.

The incident is expected to have a massive impact on the local livelihoods of fishermen as a considerable number of pallets with chemicals from the ship are believed to have ended up in the sea.

Local media reports indicate that bodies of turtles, sea mammals, seabirds, and fish have been washing up on the country’s beaches. An investigation into whether these deaths have been caused by the sinking is said to be underway