X-Press Pearl, the feeder containership which continues to burn in Sri Lankan waters for the sixth day, has listed starboard causing some of the containers to tumble into the sea and sink.

X-Press Pearl
X-Press Pearl; Image by Indian Coast Guard

According to an update from the Sri Lanka Navy, the listing has been caused by rough seas and bad weather. As informed, the fire on board X-Press Pearl has been exacerbated by strong winds and is now spreading from the forecastle area to the quarterdeck and the bridge.

The situation on board deteriorated yesterday after a reported explosion in one of the containers which contained hazardous material, resulting in an emergency evacuation of the crew as a precautionary measure. Two seafarers out of 25 were taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries.

Dramatic footage from the scene shows the vessel was engulfed in flames and thick, black smoke swelling from the scene.

The navy said that Indian Coast Guard Maritime Pollution control ships with firefighting capabilities are set to arrive at the scene to help extinguish the fire. ICG ships Vaibhav and Vajra were dispatched to help with firefighting efforts, the Indian Coast Guard said.

In addition, a Dornier aircraft carrying fire extinguishing agents and oil- dispersants is also made ready to respond in the event of an emergency.

The Sri Lanka Port Authority believes the fire was caused by a chemical reaction of the chemicals being transported on the ship.

Namely, the feeder vessel, registered under the flag of Singapore, is carrying 1,486 containers with 25 tons of Nitric Acid, several other chemicals, and cosmetics from the port of Hazira, India, according to SLPA.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Sri Lankan Navy have towed the vessel to 50 miles from Colombo port amid growing fears of oil and chemical spills, local media said.

Namely, the ship’s cargo poses a major threat of an environmental pollution to the area, especially since concerns have been voiced about the potential risk of the ship breaking apart. What is more, there are 300,000 metric tons of fuel in the vessel’s tanks, which could spill into the sea if the ship splits in half or sinks.

The Marine Environment Protection Authority said it was taking water samples from the vicinity of the vessel and testing air pollution levels to assess the impact from the incident on the local environment.

The agency added it was prepared to seek legal action and compensation for any environmental damage arising from the incident.

The 2,700 TEU boxship was built in 2021 by Zhoushan Changhong International and is owned by Singapore-based X-Press Feeders.

Marine insurer WK Webster said that the general average has been declared in connection with the fire, adding that general average security will now be required from all cargo interests prior to the delivery.

The massive fire is being reported in less than a year from another major incident in Sri Lankan waters when a fire erupted onboard the supertanker New Diamond, prompting an extensive firefighting and salvage operation.

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