Photo: X-Press Pearl; Image credit: Indian Coast Guard

X-Press Pearl’s wreck to be removed after South Westerly Monsoon season

The removal of the X-Press Pearl’s wreck from the seabed off Colombo, Sri Lanka, will start once the South Westerly Monsoon season ends, according to the operator of the ill-fated vessel.

The period in question covers the month of June until September.

“Due to the exposed nature of the anchorage to the prevailing South Westerly Monsoon, it is likely that the wreck removal can only start after the SW monsoon subsides; caretaker services will remain on site until then,” Singapore-based X-Press Feeders said.

Efforts are being undertaken to minimise pollution and monitor the wreck’s condition which is now wholly sitting on the seabed at a depth of 21 meters.

The feeder operator said that navigational warning lights and markers on the wreck for the safety of other vessels are set to be installed.

“When conditions allow, side-scan sonar will be used to locate any sunken containers or debris in the anchorage for removal,” the update further reads.

No oil spill has been reported, however, a grey sheen continues to be observed emanating from the vessel, and discoloration of the sea in and around the wreck remains.

The chemical-laden feeder containership X-Press Pearl sank on June 2 and touched the sea bottom off Colombo Port in Sri Lanka after burning for almost two weeks.

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.

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.

Meanwhile, the ship’s captain has appeared before the High Court and has been released on bail.

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

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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.