Vital emails related to the sinking MV X-Press Pearl were deleted by its local agent, a Sri Lankan court was told on Monday (7th June 2021). The Singapore-registered ship had reported an on-board acid leak to its representative Sea Consortium Lanka who failed to alert local authorities, the state prosecutor told the court.
He also added that investigators had discovered that the Sea Consortium had deleted e-mail exchanges with the Russian skipper, Tyutkalo Vitaly.
The magistrate had asked a local agent to fetch originals of e-mails from servers located abroad. Magistrate Chalani Perera ordered the navy to protect the wreckage lying submerged outside the port of Colombo.
Sri Lankan port authorities have said that they were unaware that MV X-Press Pearl had been leaking nitric acid from May 11, nine days before the fire had started.
Ports both in India and Qatar had resisted offloading a leaking acid container that had been on board at Jebel Ali, Dubai.
Sri Lankan navy has been able to recover the ship’s black box. The Voyage Data Recorder, also popular as a maritime “black box”, was unearthed. It is expected to provide investigators with instructions and review procedures ahead of the maritime disaster. The authorities are hopeful that the black box will offer details of the ship’s movements and communications with the Colombo harbour, where it had been due to dock.
A special police investigation is underway. The police interviewed Vitaly and Officer Peter Anish and Chief Engineer Sadilenko Oleg. Their passports have been seized.
Authorities are preparing for a potential oil spill from the submerged cargo vessel. However, there has been no sign of leaks so far. Several tonnes of micro-plastic granules from the ship swamped an 80-kilometre stretch of the famed beaches. Fishing in the area has temporarily been banned.
The country’s environmentalists on Friday sued the ship’s operators and the government for failing to prevent the “worst marine ecological disaster” in Sri Lanka’s history.