For ten days, the MV X-Press Pearl, a 200-meter-long Panamanian container ship, has been burning off the coast of Colombo, the economic capital of Sri Lanka. Coming from India to Singapore, this cargo ship carries millions of polyethylene granules intended for the packaging industry and toxic and highly polluting products (25 tonnes of citric acid, nearly 300 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of marine diesel).
The Sri Lankan authorities announced on Sunday that they would take legal action against the owner of the container ship, which is the cause of “one of the most serious marine pollution in the history of the country”. An investigation was also opened to understand how the fire had started on board the ship.
Tourist beaches region
The pollution affects an area of about 80 km along the coast around Colombo, an area of tourist beaches, shallow-water fishing areas, and fragile ecosystems of mangroves and lagoons. While the fire on board the ship is now under control, it weakened the structure of the 186 m long ship.
“It will take a few more days to extinguish the fire completely,” admitted Vice-Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, while considering that there was no longer any danger that the vessel would break up and release at sea not only his fuel but also its cargo of 278 tonnes of bunker fuel and 50 tonnes of marine diesel.
Authorities last week said they believed the blaze was caused by a nitric acid leak that the crew had known about since May 11.
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