D.he country is threatened with a serious oil spill due to the sinking of a burned-out container ship off the coast of Sri Lanka. According to the shipping company, the stern of the Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl has sunk and is now 21 meters deep on the seabed. The front of the ship was also slowly sinking. It is feared that hundreds of tons of heavy oil and other fuel could now end up in the sea and lead to an oil spill. Sri Lanka is already grappling with one of the worst environmental crises in years after millions of small plastic particles from the ship’s cargo entered the sea. The authorities of the South Asian island state assume that the ecological consequences will be felt for years to come. “This is arguably the worst beach pollution in our history,” said Dharshani Lahandapura of the marine protection agency.
According to the authorities, preparations are being made to protect the Negombo lagoon near the capital Colombo from an oil spill. The shipping company in Singapore announced that no oil spill had been found by Thursday morning. Rescue teams are ready to catch debris and leaking oil. “The immediate focus is on averting further damage to the environment,” said the shipping company X-Press Feeders. Most of the cargo was destroyed in the fire. The shipload of almost 1,500 containers had apparently caught fire two weeks ago after a chemical leak. In addition to harmless goods, the ship also loaded 81 containers with hazardous substances, including 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals. Nitric acid is used in the manufacture of fertilizers, medicines, and explosives. 28 containers were also filled with plastic granulate.
As a result of the fire, various containers fell into the sea. Since then, large amounts of plastic have been found on Sri Lankan beaches. Cleaning crews were shocked by the amount of garbage washed up. “We removed the plastic yesterday, only to see that more was washed up by the waves today,” one participant told the press. In an 80-kilometer stretch of the coast, fishing, which is the livelihood of thousands of people, has been banned.
The fire was extinguished on Tuesday after a ten-day deployment. A Dutch company then tried to tow the ship off the coast. But this was not successful. In Sri Lanka, the authorities were criticized for allowing the ship to enter the waters there. The chemical leak is reported to have been known days before the fire. Ports in Qatar and India have refused entry to the ship. The police have now started investigations against the shipping company and the crew. Sri Lanka’s government is demanding compensation for the economic and environmental damage caused by the disaster.