Sri Lankan authorities have collected water samples to determine whether the fire-ravaged cargo vessel gradually sinking off the coast is leaking oil, officials informed on Friday.
Results of the tests taken on Thursday by the Marine Environment Protection Authority are pending, Sri Lanka’s environment minister said.
The tests had been prompted by the satellite images taken from Planet Labs Inc. that revealed the presence of a substance in water. It may be oil in the water near the MV X-Press Pearl, which was devastated by fire before it began sinking last week.
The fire has destroyed most of MV X-Press Pearl’s cargo, including 25 tons of nitric acid and other harmful chemicals. However, debris, including tonnes of plastic pellets and burned fibreglass, has already polluted the country’s pristine beaches, and there is a possibility that a spill of remaining chemicals and oil on the ship may devastate marine life.
X-Press Feeders, the ship’s operators, said on Thursday night that a grey sheen had been emanating from the vessel. Officials have started examining water samples.
Nalaka Godahewa, State Minister in charge of coast conservation, in his tweet on Thursday mentioned that satellite imagery may be misleading and that both Indian and Sri Lankan navy had confirmed that there has been no significant oil spill.
The fire erupted on May 20 when the ship was anchored about 18 kilometres northwest of Colombo and waiting to enter the country’s main port. Sri Lanka’s navy believes that the blaze was brought about by the ship’s chemical cargo.
The fire burned for nearly two weeks before it is put off last week. It started sinking slowly and efforts to tow it into deeper sea failed when its stern sank to the seabed.
The vessel still remains partially submerged in the sea about 21 meters deep.
A Colombo court has banned the cargo ship’s chief engineer, assistant engineer, and captain from leaving Sri Lanka. The government has said it will take legal action against the owners of the ship to obtain compensation.