Oil spill disaster feared in Sri Lanka from Singapore’s X-Press Feeders ship carrying nitric acid, chemicals

Salvors and authorities are watching for any leaking of fuel after halting efforts to tow a fire-gutted container vessel away from beaches and fishing grounds off the coast of Sri Lanka, Bloomberg reports.

The ship’s stern hit the ocean floor after it was towed only a few hundred meters from the Port of Colombo, Sri Lanka Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said late Wednesday.

“We are actually getting ready for an oil spill that might come up in a few days,” Captain de Silva said. “We don’t know yet but we are getting ready.”

Leaking oil would add to the damage already caused by the ship, which first reported smoke from the cargo hold while at Colombo anchorage on May 20, and then a fire on deck the following day.

Video from the Sri Lankan Air Force showed aerial shots of the smoldering, partially submerged X-Press Pearl vessel.

The Singapore-based ship operator, X-Press Feeders, is facing criminal charges for pollution caused by the vessel in Sri Lankan waters, the Straits Times reported Tuesday.

The newspaper said the ship was carrying 1,486 containers and had 25 tons of nitric acid, other chemicals and cosmetics on board, and that tiny plastic pellets from the ship have washed up and spread along Sri Lanka’s western coastline.

Fishermen along the coast have been banned from fishing in several areas where the Marine Environmental Protection Authority expects debris from the wreck may spread.

X-Press Pearl was carrying more than 300 tons of ship fuel when it caught fire. It is not clear whether the fierce flames that gutted the ship had also consumed the bunker oil.

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