The decision to tow away the MV X Press Pearl to deeper waters could result in further and unprecedented damage to the environment and marine life unless the bunker oil is taken out.

The ship was carrying more than 300 tons of bunker oil for its use and there are likely to be several bunkers with oil in them.  

There are experienced divers who can be deployed for this, said Dr. Dan Malika Gunasekara an expert in national maritime and logistics. ‘It should be done under the guidance of maritime experts and a  captain.

The second priority is to move the wreck of the vessel from its current position because it is in the middle of busy shipping lanes and an obstruction can have a heavy financial cost.  

According to latest reports from the Navy a part of the ship has hit the bottom of the ocean. They have also stopped towing the ship.

Earlier in the week, the ship’s contractual salvers who are from the Netherlands had inspected the vessel and had observed sea water seeping into it through a leak.

The ship should not have been mobilized under these circumstances’, points out Dr. Gunasekara. ‘A ship to ship transfer should have taken place to take out the oil in the distressed vessel through a pipe line.

A statement from the Presidential Secretariat yesterday said that a decision was taken to tow the ship from where it had been anchored for nearly two weeks following a meeting which was presided over by the President.  The decision to tow the boat was contrary to warnings by environment experts who had been present at the meeting and who had envisaged the risk of the ship sinking.

Sri Lanka could incur liability for moving the ship. Dr. Gunasekara, who is also an expert in maritime law, confirmed it will affect any compensation claims.

The MV X Press Pearl was carrying 25 tons of nitric acid and other cargo when it caught fire on May 20 while it was anchored nine nautical miles from the Colombo port.  A leak from the barrels of nitic acid which were stored on the ship’s top deck is believed to be the likeliest cause to have precipitated the fire which was raging for days before it was brought under control. Maritime experts have been concerned throughout about the stability of the ship.


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