By Asiri Fernando
A team of specialists from the Government will board the tanker MT New Diamond today to assess damages to the vessel and to collect oil and fuel samples for analysis.
The team will include members from the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA), a senior Government official today the Daily FT.
The move comes days after MEPA submitted sea water samples taken from the vicinity of the New Diamond to the Government Analyst, following advice from the Attorney-General (AG).
The tanker is held 45 nautical miles off the coast by tugs.
The Colombo Magistrate Court last week directed MEPA, the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), and other stakeholders to visit the vessel and obtain oil and fuel samples and the ship's vessel data. The Court also directed the CID to obtain written statements from the ship's crew, who are now in Hambantota.
A team of Navy divers braved rough weather to seal two sea-water inlets, which were 19 and 16 meters below the waterline at the rear (stern) of the troubled tanker, over the weekend. The Navy suspects that due to the intense fire, the pipes which bring sea-water into the vessel were damaged, and had become a source for leaking fuel oil (Marine Heavy Fuel Oil, HFO). A joint team of Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and Sri Lankan Navy divers plan to hull of the New Diamond today.
The salvage team appointed by the ship's owners are conducting repairs to the vessel to make her safe to be relocated, the Navy said. Another tug, the BOCA Expedition, had arrived on scene to assist, having being called in by the owners. A group of Sri Lanka and Indian Navy and Coast Guard vessels remain on scene to assist, following the mammoth week-long multinational effort to douse the flames and gain control of the tanker.
The New Diamond caught fire after a boiler exploded in her engine room. The explosion and subsequent fire are suspected to have caused the death of one crew member, after she caught fire and was adrift off the ecologically sensitive East Coast of Sri Lanka.
The MT New Diamond was 38 nautical miles (70 km) off Sangamankada Point on the East Coast when the distress call was issued on 2 September. The 20-year-old Panamanian-registered super tanker (330 m long) was carrying a consignment of 270,000 MT of crude oil for the Indian Oil Company from a port in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip when the fire broke out.