Singaporean-flagged container ship that caught fire in Sri Lanka is at risk of sinking, Singapore News & Top Stories


SINGAPORE – A Singapore-registered container ship that caught fire on May 20 off the coast of Sri Lanka is at risk of sinking, authorities said on Wednesday (June 2nd).

The fire aboard the X-Press Pearl, which was carrying hundreds of tons of chemicals and plastics, was extinguished on Tuesday, June 1. But the vessel’s condition deteriorated, its operator X-Press Feeders said.

The 25 crew members were safely evacuated from the ship, which was carrying 1,486 containers and was on its way to Singapore from Hazira in India via Colombo when the fire broke out.

It also carried 25 tons of nitric acid, other chemicals and cosmetics.

The Singapore Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said that the Singaporean flagged vessel, it is in constant communication with the Sri Lankan authorities, the vessel’s operator and the classification society, who establish and maintain technical standards for the boats.

They have been in contact on efforts to stabilize the ship, put out the fire and put measures in place to reduce the environmental impact.

“The MPA has also previously offered to provide assistance to the Sri Lankan authorities regarding this incident,” he added.

The MPA, which released a statement on Wednesday, said it understood the ship’s stern is now submerged and the ship is at risk of sinking.

“The operator of the vessel is working with the rescuers to continue the rescue operations,” he added.

A statement from X-Press Feeders said on Wednesday that despite rescuers who managed to board the ship and attach a towline to it, efforts to move it to deeper water have failed. Her stern touched bottom at a depth of 21 m.

Smoke was also still emitted from two cargo holds at 3 p.m. Sri Lanka time (5:30 p.m. Singapore time), he said.

An earlier statement released the same day said there were no flames visible on the ship, but an inspection team that boarded on Tuesday found the engine room was flooded.

“There are now concerns about the amount of water in the hull and its effect on the stability of the vessel,” he reported.

“Efforts to establish a connection for the towing failed after several attempts due to the movement of the tug caused by the swell. The operation was halted for safety reasons.”

The operator added that most of the evacuated crew continued to be quarantined at local hotels, with some sailors helping local police and investigators investigate.

“We will respect this process and will not publicly discuss operational details until the investigation is completed,” he said.

Smoke rises from the MV X-Press Pearl on June 2, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

Media said the ship caused Sri Lanka’s worst maritime environmental disaster, with a huge amount of plastic debris washed up on beaches threatening to devastate the local environment.

But Sri Lankan authorities have said there could be an even more serious disaster if the 278 tonnes of bunker oil and 50 tonnes of gas in the ship’s fuel tanks leaked into the Indian Ocean, the report said. AFP press agency.

The MPA said it understood that the Sri Lankan authorities were investigating the cause of the incident with the operator of the vessel.

With the Singapore flag vessel, the MPA has also launched its own investigation.

“The MPA has called on the operator of the vessel to cooperate fully with the Sri Lankan authorities and adhere to measures aimed at minimizing the environmental impact,” he said.

He also asked the operator of the vessel to continue deploying his means to clean up the sea as much as possible.

The MPA also noted that based on its records, the vessel had been registered as a Singapore flag vessel and delivered from the shipyard in February with all of the required certificates.

Smoke rises from the MV X-Press Pearl on June 2, 2021.

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