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Sri Lanka News

Negligence was cause for X-Press Pearl fire

A criminal investigation by Sri Lanka Police revealed that the fire on board the X-Press Pearl container ship was caused due to negligence.

Sri Lanka Police said the Criminal Investigations Department and other detective teams are pursuing their avenues of investigations on what is dubbed as Sri Lanka’s worst maritime disaster.

The Voyage Data Recorder or the Black Box of the vessel is currently being investigated by the CID’s Computer Crimes Division.

Detectives have recorded statements from around 30 people with regard to the X-Press Pearl disaster and this includes lengthy states from the captain and crew.

In addition, detectives have recorded statements from fire local experts as well.

The X-Press Pearl cargo ship that caught fire off western Sri Lanka has begun to sink, raising alarms over oil and chemical spills that could have potentially devastating impacts on the marine and coastal ecosystem.

The fire broke out on board the Singapore-flagged freighter on 20th May, and took more than a week to get under control.

A salvage crew who boarded the ship for an inspection after the fire found a breach in the stern and recommended that the ship be towed out to deeper waters to minimize any impact.

But the charred and stricken vessel began taking on water quickly; the towing operation had only managed to move it half a kilometer (0.3 miles) before the ship began sinking.

This latest development has sparked fears that the 300 metric tons of fuel oil in the ship’s tanks could leak.

Its rear section has hit the sea bed while the front remains above water as the sea there is shallow, and only about 21 meters (69 feet) deep.

The X-Press Pearl is brand new, having been completed in February this year and commissioned in March.

And while current indications are that its fuel tanks haven’t been breached, the possibility of a leak, especially after the fire that destroyed much of the hull, remains very real.

X-Press Feeders, the ship’s owner, said its salvage crew remains with the vessel to monitor its condition and any signs of an oil leak.

The X-Press Pearl had left the port of Hazira in western India carrying 1,486 containers when the fire started on May 20th off Colombo, Sri Lanka’s commercial capital.

Among its cargo are 81 containers of hazardous goods, including 25 metric tons of nitric acid — a key ingredient in the production of explosives, and touted as a possible factor for the fire on board.

A grey sheen continues to be observed emanating from the vessel. Discolouration of the sea 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 water.

“Most of the cargo seems to have incinerated by fire,” said Andrew Leahy, spokesman for X-Press Feeders.

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