Tugs from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority supported by vessels of the Navy attempt to douse a fire onboard the Singaporean flagged
container vessel MV X-Press Pearl, in the anchorage off Colombo
By Asiri Fernando
The fire that erupted on board the Singaporean flagged container vessel MV X-Press Pearl in the anchorage off Colombo Port has been contained as of last evening (21 May), with cooling operations ongoing to prevent fire from flaring up, the Sri Lanka Navy said.
The 25-member crew were unhurt and remained aboard the vessel, with tugs from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and the naval vessels SLNS Sagara and Sindurala on-site continuing cooling of the vessel, Navy Spokesman Capt. Indika De Silva told the Daily FT.
Capt. De Silva pointed out that although the fire had been contained, strong winds and the presence of chemicals increased the risk of re-ignition, prompting cooling efforts to continue. The Sri Lanka Air Force had also dispatched a helicopter to aid in the effort.
The MV X-Press Pearl, a 185-metre-long vessel, had left Hazira Port in India on 15 May bound for Colombo with 1,486 containers, including 25 tons of nitric acid and several other chemicals on board, when it issued a distress call while in anchorage, 9.5 nautical miles northwest of Colombo Harbour. The SLPA and Navy suspect that leakage of nitric acid may have caused the fire.
“A special team comprising Sri Lanka Navy and Ports Authority (SLPA) personnel boarded the ship in the evening of 20 May and inspected the situation on board, where they suspected that the fire was erupted due to a reaction to the chemicals being transported on the vessel," the Navy said.
A team of specialists from the Navy, Coast Guard and Ports Authority are on standby to respond to possible developments on-board the vessel. The MV X-Press Pearl remains in the anchorage off Colombo Port.