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X-Press Pearl chemicals likely to get diluted off Sri Lanka seas: official

ECONOMYNEXT – Chemicals remaining on board X-Press Pearl to get diluted in the Indian Ocean an official said, as the vessel which carried over 800 tonnes of sodium hydroxide continued to emit a grey sheen while settling to the bottom off Colombo Port.

“According to what chemical scientists say the disclosed chemical compounds disclosed here will get diluted (in sea water) and there will be no long term impact,” Secretary of Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Environment Anil Jasinghe said.

“It is plastic nurdles that is the biggest problem. To reduce the damage we have to collect as much as possible.”

The sunken vessel has been emitting a grayish material and water remains discoloured around the vessel, the owners have said.

X-Press Pearl was carrying over 800 tonnes of sodium hydroxide when it caught fire. It is not clear how much of it remains on board.

“A grey sheen continues to be observed emanating from the vessel, and discolouration of the sea in and around the wreck remains,” owners X-Press Pearl said.

“This has been apparent since the vessel’s stern became submerged, and the remnants of the cargo in the 1486 containers that were onboard were exposed to seawater.”

There had been peculation that a lighter coloured tongue of water leading away from the vessel could be an oil spill.

Questioned about the grey sheen, and whether it could be due to hydroxide precipitation officials said some people had suggested that algae could be growing.

Officials said they had no knowledge to answer queries on whether there were any loading conflict in the stowage of dangerous goods, and whether IMDG guidelines had been complied with.

Minister of Coast Conservation Nalaka Godahewa said though claims had been made that an oil spill was there based on satellite images, no slick was visible at close quarters.

Chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environmental Protection Authority said there was no heavy bunker oil leaking but some patches of a lighter material such as diesel could be seen around the ship.

She said most experts believed that bunker oil had been burnt off.

Sri Lanka has sought 40 million dollars in interim damages and was calculating losses to the fishing community, tourism and environment. Three experts from a UN agency were due to arrive in Sri Lanka this week to help.

A committee will take claims from anyone who is not covered in the identified sectors who has suffered a loss, Minister Godahewa said.

Minister Godahewa said carcases of dead turtles that were turning up was being examined. One view was that they were linked to the X-Press Pearl disaster and another was that turtles did turn up during bad weather in the ‘warakan’ or South West monsoon season, he said. (Colombo/June15/2021)

Chandana Sesath Jayakody

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