Burning cargo vessel could result in slight acid rains in Sri Lanka: Authorities

X-Press Pearl was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid
Last Updated 29 May 2021, 08:20 IST

There could be slight acid rains due to the emission of nitrogen dioxide from the Singapore-flagged cargo ship which caught fire near the Colombo beach last week, Sri Lanka's apex environment body has warned, asking people to be vigilant in case of inclement weather.

The cargo vessel- MV 'X-PRESS PEARL'- was carrying a consignment of chemicals and raw materials for cosmetics from Hazira in Gujarat to Colombo Port. It caught fire 9.5 nautical miles from the coast here, where it was anchored outside the Port of Colombo on May 20.

Apart from the 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, X-Press Pearl was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid.

“We observed that the emission of Nitrogen Dioxide from the MV X-PRESS PEARL was massive. With the emission of Nitrogen Dioxide gas in the rainy season, there could be slight acid rains,” Dharshani Lahandapura, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), was quoted as saying by on Friday.

“Especially, the people in the close proximity to the coastal belt, should remain vigilant and ensure that you do not expose yourself to rain these days,” the official said.

MEPA said that the blaze has been brought under control to a great extent and the authority is taking all appropriate measures to conduct beach clean-up procedures as soon as possible to avert the risks of pollution caused due to the fire in the cargo ship.

“The density of the flames is reducing. Two tug boats are still engaged in firefighting missions and boundary calls. Vessels from the Indian Coast Guard and tug boats from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Sri Lanka Navy are monitoring the situation,” Lahandapura was quoted as saying in the report.

Lahandapura said they are closely monitoring the situation and there is no sign of any oil spill.

India on Tuesday dispatched ICG Vaibhav, ICG Dornier and Tug Water Lilly to help the Sri Lankan Navy extinguish the fire on the container ship.

India's specialised pollution response vessel Samudra Prahari will reach on Saturday to augment pollution control efforts, the Colombo Gazette reported on Friday.

Updating the joint fire fighting efforts, the Indian High Commission here said that at present, heavy smoke has been observed only near the accommodation/superstructure area in the aft portion of the ship and is being tackled, the report said.

Overall, the MV X-Press Pearl is currently assessed as being stable and not having issues with watertight integrity.

“External fire-fighting using foam and boundary cooling by sea-water along the entire length of vessel from either side is under progress and continuous monitoring of vessel’s draught, list conditions and presence of hazardous and noxious substances overboard is being undertaken.

"Quantity of combustible material onboard is estimated to be limited. The ICG ships will continue to assess the situation and the decision to board or approach closer to the vessel will be taken after fully dousing the fire and undertaking sufficient boundary cooling,” the Indian mission said.

The High Commission said that containers that fell from the vessel were identified and threat assessment for navigation safety have already been carried out and shared with the relevant Sri Lankan authorities, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Navy Commander Nishantha Ulugetenne on Friday said there is no threat of the vessel breaking into two and the ship is now largely stable.

All 25 crew members of the ship -- of Indian, Chinese, Filipino and Russian nationality -- were rescued on Tuesday after a 'fire alarm' dispatch was sent.

(Published 29 May 2021, 08:20 IST)

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