Sri Lankan officials brace for oil spill from sinking cargo ship

Sri Lanka is readying for the possibility of an oil spill after a cargo ship laden with chemicals sank off its western coast.

The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl, carrying 1,486 containers, incluso 25 tonnes of nitric acid along with other chemicals and cosmetics, was anchored off the port city of Negombo when a fire erupted onboard after an explosion on 20 Mayo.

Flaming containers filled with chemicals tumbled into the sea from the ship’s deck as emergency crews sought to contain the blaze over the ensuing two weeks.

The craft began to sink early on Wednesday, and a salvage crew tried to tow the vessel to deeper water, away from the coast, but the attempt was abandoned after the rear of the ship touched the sea bed.

The ship’s operators, X-Press Feeders, said on Thursday there were still no signs of an oil spill from the ship and much of the toxic cargo had been incinerated in the fire.

“Salvors remain on scene to deal with any possible debris supported by the Sri Lankan navy and the Indian coastguard, who have oil spill response capabilities on standby,” it added.

But photos from the country’s coastguard showed a layer of green film blanketing the ocean surrounding the vessel, and millions of plastic pellets have fouled surrounding beaches and fishing grounds, forcing the government to ban fishing along an 80km stretch of coast.

The government has said it would seek redress for the incident. “We hope to get compensation in accordance with local and international law. We will never give up on that effort,” the for ports minister, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, told a news conference. “We will calculate the cost from the beginning of this incident and claim compensation.“

Singapore authorities said they have launched an investigation into the incident.

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