Thursday, May 20th: A fire broke out in the storage room of a containership anchored (on May 19th) near Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was confirmed by the X-Press Feeders, the world's largest feeder operator, just after the day of the mishappening. In a statement by the X-Press Feeders, it was highlighted that the fire started from one of its containers on board. Officials later recognised chemicals as the main culprit.
The Sri Lankan Navy is believed to have received a distress call on the same day as the mishap. The Navy later confirmed the report, stating that the call came from the X-Press Pearl containership on the afternoon of the accident. The call was to report a fire on board, and the coordinates of the anchorage were 9.5 miles northwest of Colombo Harbour.
In its call at the Port of Hazira, India (15th May), the vessel loaded several chemicals and cosmetics, among which was the loading of 25 tons of Nitric acid. The Navy reckoned the ship carried approximately 1,486 containers. This Singapore-flagged vessel had crew members from all around. The 25 crew were composed of Russians, the Philippines, Chinese and Indians.
The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) of Sri Lanka has initiated an investigation to peep into the fire's potential to disrupt the environment. According to local media on Saturday, the inquiry will look into whether the incident harmed the aquatic ecosystem.
Dharshani Lahandapura ( Chairperson, MEPA) said, "Working teams have been deployed to reduce the heat in the surrounding area of containers on board the cargo ship as flames were still visible on top of the containers on the weather deck."
"A special team comprising Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and MEPA personnel got onboard the ship in the evening (20th) and inspected the situation on board ship where they suspected that the fire had erupted due to a reaction to the chemicals being transported on the ship. Further, special teams of the Navy and Sri Lanka Coast Guard remain on standby to respond to possible emergencies and the SLPA tug is currently engaged to smother the flames that erupted. The team are working in full swing to contain the fire on board the containership. "– Sri Lankan Navy on Friday (21st May).
Sri Lanka Naval Ships (SLNS) Sagara and Sindurala – two offshore Patrol vessels, were deployed as a response instinct to aid the firefighting needs. A Fast Attack Craft along with a Sri Lanka Ports Authority given tug boat was also seen at the site of the fire.
The ship’s operator, X-Press Feeders, confirmed the incident in a statement posted to its website:
"On 20th May 2021, an on-deck container on board vessel" "X-PRESS PEARL" (which is deployed in our Straits Middle East SMX service), caught fire whilst at Colombo Anchorage.
"The vessel had taken all precautionary measures throughout the night. However, firefighting is still underway with the assistance of tugs sent by local authorities.
"Together with local authorities, X-Press Feeders is actively working on various solutions to put out the fire/smoke on board the vessel, whilst maintaining the safety of our crew.
"We are closely monitoring the situation and will duly inform affected customers of any developments.
"In the meantime, we are also looking into alternative options to ensure minimal disruption to our SMX service."
The vessel is considered to be relatively fresh, as it was shipped to X-Press Feeders in February. Vesselsvalue.com claims this 2,700-TEU vessel to be worth $45 million.
It is one of three similar ships on the Singapore Straits-Middle East (SMX) service, and X-Press Feeders said it was "looking at possible solutions to ensure minimum disruption to our SMX service."
According to the eeSea liner database, which markets it as the Arabian Star operation, one of its main customers seems to be Maersk Line. The vessel's next port of call after Colombo would have been Singapore on May 29th, according to Maersk schedules.
SM - X-Press Pearl ( Singapore-flagged), with 25 crew members was reported to catch fire, on 20th May. The ship was anchored near Colombo, Sri Lanka when the incident took place. The Sri Lankan navy and MEPA sent recue vessels for the crew well-being and investigations. Official believes the presence of chemicals on board, to be the cause of distress.