A Singapore registered container ship 'X-Press Pearl' was on fire on May 20 and has been burning for almost two weeks in the waters of Sri Lanka.
The fire has destroyed most parts of the ship. This has resulted in millions of plastic pellets spilling into the waters and floating onto the nearby shores.
The Sri Lankan authorities have described this incident as likely the worst marine pollution that the nation has ever experienced.
Beach Cleaning Operations conducted by SLAF troops today. (01 June 2021) pic.twitter.com/Fs2Qru3PSL— Sri Lanka Air Force (@airforcelk) June 1, 2021
MPA offered assistance and in constant communication with relevant parties
In a statement to the media on June 2, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said that the agency has been in constant communication with the Sri Lankan authorities, ship operator and classification society on efforts to stabilise the ship, put out the fire and put in place measures to reduce the extent of environmental impact.
MPA has also offered to provide assistance to the Sri Lankan authorities and directed the ship operator to fully cooperate with the authorities and deploy resources to clean up the sea as much as possible.
MPA has also commenced its own investigation into the incident.
Ship's stern is submerged
While the fire has been put out on June 2, the ship's condition has deteriorated and the ship's stern is now submerged, MPA said.
MPA added that the ship operator is working with the salvors to continue with the salvage operations.
The salvage operations were unfortunately deterred by ocean swell and monsoon winds, BBC reported.
A Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson said that the salvers towed the sinking ship to deep sea before it sank. This is an attempt to minimise the environmental impact to the coastal area, BBC reported.
As the ship's stern has sunk, the navy spokesperson said that the towing has stopped.
There remains the risk of a massive oil spill as the ship carries 350 metric tonnes of oil in its tanks, Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) warned.
Ship captain and engineers not allowed to leave Sri Lanka
The 'X-Press Pearl’ was registered as a Singapore flag in February 2021, according to MPA.
Based on MPA's records, 'X-Press Pearl' had been delivered from the shipyard in February 2021 with the full set of applicable class and statutory certificates.
Prior to the fire, the ship crew were aware of the leak and had tried to offload the container leaking nitric acid. However, they were told that there "were no specialist facilities or expertise immediately available to deal with the leaking acid" in the Hazira Port in India and Hamad Port in Qatar.
BBC reported that a court order has been issued to prevent the ship captain and two engineers, including the chief engineer, from leaving Sri Lanka.
A criminal investigation has also been launched by the Sri Lankan police.
Top image from Sri Lanka Airforce/Twitter