The Sri Lankan authorities have been expecting oil spills from a Singapore flagged vessel that has been blazing in fire off Colombo port for almost 6 days now. The wind and the weather conditions have accelerated the fire which was initially taken into control after the fire erupted.
At present, the Navy, the Coast Guard and other departments of the Sri Lankan Government are working in tandem to put off the fire and avoid chemical and oil spill from the containers floating around the vessel.
As of May 26th, the fire has intensified following large explosions on the X-Press Pearl and firefighters have been fighting day and night to douse the flames. 5 tugboats along with a Sri Lankan Navy ship anchored close by have been working to put off the flames.
The Navy has said that strong winds have spread the flames to the quarterdeck of the ship and now the ship’s bridge is on fire.
The ship’s crew have been evacuated to safety and measures are being taken to contain the oil spill as several containers have gone overboard and are now floating around the vessel. Some of them have even sunk. The ship was carrying nitric oxide and other chemicals cargo which are quite toxic and harmful.
Rohitha Abeygunawardena, the Ports and Shipping Minister of Sri Lanka have said that they are working at godspeed to extinguish the fire which has accelerated because of the chemical nature of the cargo and the weather conditions. They have drawn a feasible plan which causes the least harm to the sea and marine environment.
The ship had been on its way to Singapore from Hazira port in India when the fire erupted on its 1486 containers of 25 tonnes of nitric acid cargo. The MPA has confirmed that the ship indeed belongs to Singapore.
Meanwhile, the X-Press Feeders, the owner of the ship, has revealed that they have flown in specialized fire fighting equipment from Europe to Salvage the vessel.
Containers have already started to wash up ashore from the ship. As a result, people have been asked to look out for these toxic containers and not to touch them. They have been asked to inform the police or the navy if they find any such toxic containers.
Fishermen have been warned not to venture near the ship and stay away from the area as it contains dangerous chemicals.
There is a fear of 100 tonnes of oil spill apart from the chemical spill from the nitric oxide cargo. North of the site where the ship is blazing lies a popular dolphin sighting spit which is likely to be affected in case of an oil spill.
Dharshani Lahandapura, the chairman of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) have revealed that they are preparing for a Tier II Oil Spill and have started to build a specialised response team to tackle this.
The ship has an estimated amount of 300 tonnes of bunker fuel, of which some are removed. Now, they are preparing for the worst with chemical dispersals and booms.
The oil spill estimate has been set as 100 tons but it could quickly escalate to Tier III oil spill hence they are preparing themselves.
While India has sent naval ships and aircraft to fight the blaze, Netherlands and Belgium have sent experts to survey the ship.