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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Marine pollution ~ - X-Press Pearl reported sinking off Colombo


THE OCEANS are so vast and deep that until fairly recently, it was widely assumed that no matter how much trash and chemicals humans dumped into them, the effects would be negligible.  Ocean water covers more than 70 percent of the Earth, and only in recent decades have we begun to understand how humans impact this watery habitat. Marine pollution, as distinct from overall water pollution, focuses on human-created products that enter the ocean. Each year, there are thousands of oil and chemical spills in coastal waters across the globe. These spills range from small ship collisions to fuel transfer mishaps to massive spill events that spoil the marine environ and create so much of difficulty for marine life.

In Marine, often the discussion is on “Perils of the sea” that encompasses the natural accidents peculiar to the sea. It can be maritime accidents and dangers such as storms, waves, wind, collision of the vessel, fire, smoke and noxious fumes; sinking, flooding and capsizing, loss of propulsion or steering, and any other hazards resulting from the unique environment of the sea. Other than inevitable perils or accidents upon the sea are not excused, whether there is a bill of lading containing the expression of peril of the sea. It also includes accidents caused as a result of stranding, striking a submerged object, or encountering heavy weather or other unusual forces of nature.

Marine Insurance Act defines :  “maritime perils” as  the perils consequent on, or incidental to, the navigation of the sea, that is to say, perils of the sea, fire, war perils, pirates, rovers, thieves, captures, seizures, restraints and detainments of princes and peoples, jettisons, barratry and any other perils which are either of the like kind or may be designated by the policy;  The term “perils of the seas” refers only to fortuitous accidents or casualties of the seas. It does not include the ordinary action of the winds and waves.

Nitric acid (HNO3), also known as aqua fortis (Latin for "strong water") and spirit of niter, is a highly corrosive mineral acid. The pure compound is colorless, but older samples tend to acquire a yellow cast due to decomposition into oxides of nitrogen and water. Most commercially available nitric acid has a concentration of 68% in water. When the solution contains more than 86% HNO3, it is referred to as fuming nitric acid.  Nitric acid is also commonly used as a strong oxidizing agent.

Their web site describes them as :  X-PRESS FEEDERS is the largest independent common carrier in the world with a rich corporate history since 1972. It is our mission to be "The Global Common Carrier" of choice, in providing the most reliable and cost-effective service to support our customers feedering needs. Being a SOC common carrier, X-PRESS FEEDERS do not compete with any of our customers. We operate a fleet of more than 110 vessels (up to New Panamax size), including 43 fully owned, covering all the major global transhipment hubs throughout Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Latin Americas, Europe, Mediterranean and Middle East. In 2019, our group’s annual throughput recorded 5.6 million TEUs in excess, placing us 18th position on Alphaliner TOP 100 list. As an independent common carrier, X-PRESS FEEDERS do not own, lease or operate any containers. We provide only transportation services to container operators and not for proprietary cargo interests or for the general shipping public. 


One of their vessels “X-Press Pearl” is in news !  - it  was a Singaporean Super Eco 2700–class container ship, built in 2021, measuring  around 186 metres (610 ft) long.  X-Press Pearl was built by Zhoushan Changhong International Shipyard Co. Ltd of China for Singapore-based X-Press Feeders, along with its sister ship X-Press Mekong. The 37,000-deadweight tonne (DWT) container vessel could carry 2,743 twenty-foot equivalent units. The ship was delivered on 10 February 2021  and was deployed on the Straits to Middle East service (SMX) of X-Press Feeders from Port Klang (Malaysia) via Singapore and Jebel Ali (UAE) to Port Hamad (Qatar). The return journey was via Hazira (India) and Colombo (Sri Lanka) back to Malaysia. The vessel had made three voyages, calling at Colombo on 17 March and 18 April, and caught fire shortly after its third call at the port on 19 May.

The ship departed the port of Hazira, India, on 15 May 2021. The container vessel was reportedly laden with 1,486 containers, with contents including 25 tons of nitric acid, other chemicals, cosmetics and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) pellets.  It  arrived in Colombo on 19 May; there are some reports that the container ship was denied entry in the Hamad Port of Qatar and in Hazira Port of India before entering the Colombo Port in Sri Lanka though this is being rebuffed. X-Press Feeders, the owners of the vessel, said the crew had discovered a container leaking nitric acid and requested Hamad Port in Qatar and Hazira to offload it. The request was denied as "there were no specialist facilities or expertise immediately available to deal with the leaking acid", and the vessel proceeded on its planned journey to Colombo, according to Wikipedia report.

The ship reached Colombo on the night of 19 May and was anchored in the outer harbor awaiting a berth. The ship did not declare an emergency or the cargo acid leak. On 20 May the ship's agents requested a re-working of the container.  It was reported that the ship caught fire on 20 May, 9.5 nautical miles (17.6 km; 10.9 mi) northwest of the Colombo Port.  The Sri Lanka Navy, along with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, which got aboard the ship in order to find out the cause of fire, suspected that the fire might have started as a result of the reaction of chemicals being transported on the ship. On 25 May, a large explosion took place inside the vessel and all 25 crew members were evacuated safely from the vessel. The fire continued to blaze during 25 May, and by late afternoon containers were dropping off the vessel into the sea. The Sri Lanka Maritime Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) declared a Tier II oil spill event from on-board bunkers as the blaze got worse.  India dispatched firefighting and pollution control Coast Guard vessels, a tug and a Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft to help containment measures, and fishermen were asked to stay clear of the ship.

              On 29 May, X-Press Pearl was still smouldering and belching smoke, though flames were down. Hull integrity was still intact. Firefighting tugs continued to pour water on the ship. The Sri Lanka Air Force dropped dry chemical powder. The Indian Coast Guard vessel ICG Samudra Prahari, a pollution control ship, joined the task force.  Salvors boarded the vessel on 1 June for the first inspection and reportedly observed that the engine room flooded and smoke still coming out from cargo hold 1, 2 and 3 intermittently.  After burning for 12 days, the vessel sank on 2 June as it was being towed away to deeper waters.

The incident  threatens to be the worst marine ecological disaster in Sri Lankan history due to the oil and chemical products on board.  General Average has been declared on the X-Press Feeders ship, which was carrying around 25 tons of acid among the 1,486 containers onboard.  “The biggest threat to container shipping is fire onboard on ships,” a spokesperson is quoted as saying.  

Sri Lankan authorities Sunday said they will sue the owners of a Singapore-registered cargo carrier which has burned for 11 straight days off the island's west coast and caused some of its worst-ever marine pollution. Police said a criminal investigation was also launched into the blaze aboard the MV X-Press Pearl, which was carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid and a huge amount of plastic raw materials. The intense fire, still burning at the rear of the 186 metre (610 feet) vessel, has destroyed much of the cargo, some of which also fell into the Indian Ocean. Tonnes of microplastic granules have inundated the South Asian nation's famed  beaches, forcing a fishing ban and sparking fears of ecological devastation.

Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Protection Authority said it met with attorney general Sanjaya Rajaratnam on Sunday to plan legal action against the owners of the vessel, its crew, as well as insurers. "We have gone through the details and will be taking action against those responsible," MEPA Chairman Dharshani Lahandapura told reporters in Colombo. She said they were, however, yet to make an assessment of the environmental damage, but she believed it was the "worst marine pollution" Sri Lanka has ever suffered.

While the media reports mention the sinking of the vessel, the official release of X-Press Feeders, operators of the container ship 'X-Press Pearl' states that it  can confirm that the situation on scene remains the same with no signs of debris and no reports of fuel oil pollution as of 0700 Sri Lanka local time as of today ie., 4th June 2021

No doubt it is a big Marine loss for Cargo owners, container owners, traders, logistics operators, the owners of the ship, freight interest, Srilankan port and for the Sea  .. .. … .

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
4th June 2021.

Photos from twitter page of Srilankan Navy &  Kanchana Wijesekera State Minister of Fisheries. Srilanka

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