The news about X-Press Pearl is fast becoming a sensation (next probably only to the Ever Given – which is still stuck in Egypt by the way) as the interest in its happenings is growing day by day.
The X-Press Pearl a vessel commissioned in Feb 2021 and operated by X-Press Feeders, has been burning off the coast of Sri Lanka since the 21st of May 2021.
As of the 31st May 2021, the news was that the flames on board the ship has been contained although the ship was still emitting smoke.
Firefighting tugs continue spraying and misting the ship to ensure the cooling of all hotspots and the vessel’s hull and hatches while salvors are exploring the possibilities of boarding the ship and securing a tow connection in order to tow the ship safely.
In the meantime, local news media in Sri Lanka is reporting that based on an order the Colombo Additional Magistrate’s Court, the Captain, Chief Engineer, and the Second Chief Engineer of the ship have been banned from leaving Sri Lanka as investigations are continuing.
This follows a complaint filed by the Director-General of the Marine Environment Protection Authority with the Harbour Police over the environmental impact caused due to the fire on board the vessel.
It is understood that on the basis of the complaint and instructions of Director and DIG of the Criminal Investigations Department, a 10-member team was appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the fire on board the X-Press Pearl.
It has been further reported that the CID team recorded statements of the Captain, Chief Engineer, and the Second Chief Engineer of the ship on Monday which is said to have lasted a period of between 12-14 hours.
As we have seen in the past in the case of the Wakashio – off the coast of Mauritius, New Diamond – off the coast of Sri Lanka or APL England – off the coast of Australia authorities have been laying charges/detaining Captains of ships and holding them personally responsible for such maritime disasters.
While there is a global debate on whether the Captain of the ship alone should be responsible for such incidents, there is also much support for seafarers (a Captain is also a seafarer) who have been working under difficult conditions especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But whatever the debate, there seem to be more and more maritime disasters occurring in various parts of the world throwing the shipping and in particular the container shipping industry which is already in a disarray due to COVID-19, into further chaos.