Sri Lanka Gets Ready For The Worst Possible Oil Slick

Sri Lankan authorities said Thursday they are preparing for the worst-case scenario of a possible oil slick from the burnt-out cargo ship sinking off its western coast. 

The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl, carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid along with other chemicals and cosmetics, was anchored off the port city of Negombo when a fire erupted onboard after an explosion on May 20.

Flaming containers filled with chemicals tumbled into the sea from the ship’s deck as emergency crews sought to contain the blaze over the ensuing two weeks.

The craft, which has nearly 350 tonnes of oil in its fuel tanks, began to sink early on Wednesday.

A salvage crew tried to tow the vessel to deeper water, away from the coast, but the attempt was abandoned after the rear of the ship touched the sea bed.

The ship’s operators, X-Press Feeders, said in a statement on Thursday there were still no signs of a fuel oil spill from the ship, and that much of the toxic cargo had been incinerated in the fire.

The statement said: ‘Salvors remain on scene to deal with any possible debris supported by the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, who have oil spill response capabilities on standby.’

Navy spokesperson Indika de Silva said: ‘There is no oil leak from the ship yet, but arrangements are in place to deal with a possible spill which is the worst-case scenario.’

But photos from the country’s coast guard showed a layer of green film blanketing the ocean surrounding the vessel.

The vessel burned for 13 days and millions of plastic pellets have already fouled surrounding beaches, forcing the government to ban fishing along the 50-mile stretch of coast.

The government has said it would seek redress for the incident.

Minister for ports and ports development Rohitha Abeygunewardene told a news conference late on Wednesday: ‘We hope to get compensation in accordance with local and international law. We will never give up on that effort.

‘We will calculate the cost from the beginning of this incident and claim compensation.’

Singapore authorities said on Thursday they have started their own investigation into the incident.

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