“Secrets” descend with cargo ship MV X-Press Pearl near Sri Lanka
The incident not only caused environmental risks but also raised safety concerns, people familiar with the matter said. This raised suspicions about the type of chemicals the ship planned to transport via the Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean region, they said.
In April, Sri Lankan authorities deported an Antigua-registered vessel that entered the port of Hambantota without declaring any radioactive cargo bound for China. The consecutive incidents have raised eyebrows in Sri Lanka over Chinese designs in the region, Colombo-based officials said.
The sinking of the MV X-Press Pearl also raised questions about the quality of the vessel which was manufactured by the Chinese international shipyard Zhoushan Changhong Co. Ltd and which has just been put into service.
The ship was en route from the United Arab Emirates via Qatar, India and Sri Lanka en route to Singapore and had reported a nitric acid leak before reaching Sri Lanka on May 19, those named said. earlier. They said the containers on the ship were marked “dangerous goods”. Thirteen Chinese personnel from the builder aboard the ship disembarked in Colombo when the first batch of Sri Lankan specialists were dispatched to monitor the ship after a fire was detected. Subsequently, an explosion occurred on the ship on May 25, people in the know said. Five Indian crew members on board the vessel were in contact with Sri Lankan authorities and the Indian mission in Colombo.
The Indian Navy and Coast Guard came to the aid of the Sri Lankan authorities at their request and the fire was extinguished on June 1, but the ship sank the next day. The ship was carrying 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals, according to people with knowledge.
Meanwhile, the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ), an environmental rights group, and fishermen’s activists on Friday filed a fundamental rights case in the Colombo Supreme Court against the Sri Lankan government and the operators of the MV X-Press Pearl, regarding the environmental damage caused by the vessel fire.
The petitioners alleged that local authorities should have been able to prevent the fire on board the ship, which was carrying dangerous chemicals and plastics, and demanded that the necessary measures be taken to arrest the captain and the crew of the ship and that appropriate criminal and civil proceedings be brought against the shipowners and their agents. The petitioners also called on the government to pass relevant laws and regulations to prevent such disasters in the future.
The CEJ said the ship’s crew were aware of an acid leak on May 11, long before entering Sri Lankan waters and that local authorities should not have allowed the ship to enter. .