Sri Lanka has extended shoreline cleaning to its western coastline for at least six months in the aftermath of the fire aboard Singapore-flagged MV X-press Pearl, a container ship that had been carrying hazardous chemicals. The cargo vessel sank off the country’s coast two months back.
The Airforce, Sri Lankan Navy, and the Indian Coast Guard doused the fire in an operation that had taken several days. However, on June 17 the ship eventually sank off Colombo’s coast.
Shoreline cleaning has been ongoing for over 40 days. This will need to be extended at least by six more months. About 2,200 metric tonnes of waste materials have been collected from the vessel as it sank in early June almost nine nautical miles off the port of Colombo.
About 45 container loads of waste have already been collected. Recent high-speed storms and winds in the seas have also resulted in more waste being washed.
The Indian Navy had appointed INS Sarvekshak following an official request from Sri Lanka for surveying the affected area to ensure the safety of navigation in the affected area.
The survey has gathered information on the containers that had fallen in the sea. But there is no further information on the contents of those.
The MV X-Press Pearl was transporting more than 1,400 chemical-laden containers, of which large numbers had fallen into the sea before the fire could be doused.
The release of contaminated products from the ship owing to fire is the worst ecological disaster in Sri Lanka’s history. Environmentalists have reported deaths of more than 20 dolphins, 4 whales and more than 150 turtles.
The ship owners’ insurance has finally settled an interim claim of compensation from the Sri Lankan government.