Despite valiant efforts by the ship salvors, Sri Lankan Navy, Indian Navy and many other entities involved in the firefighting and salvage operations, as expected, it has been announced that the journey of the X-Press Pearl has come to an end.
X-Press Feeders, operators of the container ship X-Press Pearl issued a notice that despite salvors successfully boarding the vessel and attaching a tow wire, efforts to move the ship to deeper waters failed, and the ship’s aft (rear) portion is now at the bottom of the sea bed at a depth of 21 meters and the bow (front) slowly sinking as well.
It has been reported that the salvors will remain on scene supported by the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard to monitor the ship’s condition and oil pollution which is imminent, while the immediate focus will be to minimise any further damage to the environment.
Attempts by the Sri Lankan Navy divers to inspect the vessel under the direction of salvors had to be abandoned due to poor visibility.
Oil Spill Response Limited has been appointed to respond to any possible spill and have people on the ground in Colombo coordinating with the Sri Lankan Navy to deal with any possible spill of oil and other pollutants.
General Daya Ratnayake – Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority issued a statement clarifying that the inclement weather conditions which halted port operations for 39 hours for the first time in decades also affected the salvage operations with the X-Press Pearl.
Early reports indicate that most of the 1486 TEU cargo has been incinerated during the fire even as contractors continue working with local authorities ashore to clean up and safely dispose of any debris that has been washed up on the shore.
Majority of the evacuated crew are under quarantine at local hotels in Sri Lanka, whilst some of the key seafarers are involved in helping local police with their investigations into the fire.
It is understood that the crew are co-operating with local police in their investigations, with four of the officers interviewed so far, one seafarer in a private hospital recovering from leg injuries sustained in the evacuation from the ship and a second injured seafarer, who tested COVID +ve is recovering in a military hospital.
The owners and operators of the vessel will need to announce further details on the settlement of possible claims relating to pollution, environmental impact, negligence and other factors not to mention General Average.
As this is a feeder operation, it will involve multiple shipping lines who have multiple customers with cargo that was expected to be connected to various ports.
In the meantime, it is understood that the Voyage Data Recorder, or VDR commonly known as the “Ship’s Black Box” of MV X-Press Pearl has been recovered and has been handed over to the local law enforcement agencies to assist ongoing investigations.
Mr Ajith Seneviratne, Director General of Merchant Shipping Secretariat has advised in a statement that the Merchant Shipping Secretariat is coordinating with the agencies responsible for this incident including all government agencies in Sri Lanka and the Singaporean owners of the ship, insurance companies and shipping agents.
The statement is also mentioning that compensation may be claimed in regard to the ship burning down in Sri Lankan waters in line with instructions of the Attorney General’s Department.