World Cargo ship spills tons of plastic into sea, may be leaking oil
Sri Lanka's burning cargo ship on track to become its 'worst environmental disaster'
A huge cleanup operation was underway for a sixth day in Sri Lanka Tuesday after a container ship laden with chemicals caught fire 12 days ago, inundating the country's western coastline with microplastic pollution and potentially hazardous waste. © Pushpa Kumara/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Sri Lanka Navy personnel remove waste washed ashore from the burning cargo vessel MV X-Press Pearl on the beaches of Wattala to Negombo in the suburbs of Colombo, on May 28.
Colombo — Sri Lanka announced an investigation Thursday into a possible oil slick reported off its west coast, where a container ship is submerged after burning for 13 days. Coast Conservation Minister Nalaka Godahewa said local experts were asked to examine an oil patch of about 3.6 million square feet where MV X-Press Pearl ran aground earlier this month.
"I visited the area by boat yesterday and what we noticed was a thin film of oil which looked like diesel," Godahewa told reporters in Colombo.
Sri Lanka braces for environmental disaster as ship sinks
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Authorities in Sri Lanka were trying to head off a potential environmental disaster Thursday as a fire-damaged container ship that had been carrying chemicals was sinking off of the country's main port. The Singapore-flagged MV X-Press Pearl started sinking Wednesday, a day after authorities extinguished fire that raged on the vessel for 12 days. Efforts to tow the ship into deeper waters away from the port in Colombo failed after the ship’s stern became submerged and rested on the seabed.
The X-Press Pearl reported an onboard acid leak and caught fire just as it was due to enter the Colombo harbor on May 20.
The fire was put out after 13 days, but the vessel's stern hit the bottom of the shallow sea when a tug attempted to move it to deeper waters.
The operator of the vessel, X-Press Feeders, said inspection of the wreck found no oil leaks from the ship's fuel tanks, but water in the area has been discolored since the container carrier submerged on June 2.
Sri Lankan officials brace for oil spill from sinking ship
Sri Lankan authorities said Thursday they are preparing for the worst-case scenario of a possible oil leak from the burnt-out cargo ship sinking off Colombo's main harbour. "There is no oil leak from the ship yet, but arrangements are in place to deal with a possible spill which is the worst-case scenario," navy spokesperson Indika de Silva told AFP. An Indian coast guard vessel already in the area has equipment to deal with an oil slick before it can reach the shore, according to the Sri Lankan navy, which has requested additional assistance.
"A grey sheen has been observed emanating from the vessel, and water samples are currently being tested," X-Press Feeders said in a statement. "Discoloration of the sea has been apparent since the vessel's stern became submerged, and the remnants of the cargo in the 1,486 containers that were onboard were exposed to water."
Sri Lankan authorities are bracing for a possible oil spill from the submerged wreck or some 386 tons of fuel oil thought to be still in its tanks.
X-Press Feeders have already deployed representatives from the International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) and Oil Spill Response (OSR) to monitor any oil spill and help with the cleanup of beaches.
Godahewa said five vessels, including two Indian Coast Guard ships equipped to deal with oil spills, were anchored around the sinking vessel, but none reported a leakage from the submerged wreck.
Billions of Plastic Pellets Released Into Ocean as Ship Sinks off Sri Lanka Coast
One expert said the pellets, known as nurdles, "will persist in the marine environment forever as they are not biodegradable."The ship's cargo, containing 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals, was destroyed in a massive fire that lasted for 12 days. Authorities were unable to tow the ship away from the port in Colombo after the ship, operated by X-Press Feeders, began to submerge.
The ship had been carrying about 28 tons of nitric acid, along with other chemicals and cosmetics, when the fire broke out in May, according to BBC News. Many of the nearly 1,500 shipping containers on board fell into the sea before the blaze was put out earlier this week.
Tons of plastic granules from the ship have already swamped a 50-mile stretch of beach declared off-limits for residents. The granules, the raw material used to make plastic shopping bags and other items, were part of the ship's cargo.
Fishing in the area was also banned.
Sri Lankan environmentalists last week sued the government and the ship's operators for allegedly failing to prevent what they called the "worst marine disaster" in the country's history.
Sri Lanka grants bail to captain of cargo ship MV X-Press Pearl embroiled in one of its worst environmental disasters .
The captain of a container ship that caught fire and partially sunk off the coast of Sri Lanka, causing one of the country's worst environmental disasters, was arrested Monday before being granted bail, local police said. © Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images The Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl carrying hundreds of tons of chemicals and plastics, sinks after burning for almost two weeks, just outside Colombo's harbor on June 2.