The Containership X-Press Pearl, which had been reported to have sunk off the Sri Lanka coast, has finally settled on the bottom. It took the vessel more than two weeks to fully submerge and hit the ocean floor, confirmed the vessel's owners. Removal of the ship may take months because salvage situations are challenging, and a burnt-out vessel complicates matters. Legal investigations and clean-up efforts will continue in due course.
Local port agents for Colombian X-Press Feeders were arrested for the new advancement, reported the Sri Lankan authorities. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) mustered up Arjuna Hettiarachchi (chairman, local agency) to provide them with the events leading to containership fire, in a recorded statement.
Were the authorities reported when the hazardous chemical leak was uncovered ? is where the investigation is focusing. The X-Press Pearl's captain was also arrested by the CID earlier this week. Though he is out on bail, he has orders to stay in the country.
According to an X-Press Feeders spokesperson, the rest of the vessel's crew tested negative following the COVID-related quarantine. All the crew members were moved to local inns, except for the two injured during the burning vessel's evacuation. They are on bedrest, under hospital care.
The government wanted the vessel removed immediately, according to Nalaka Godahewa (State Minister of Urban Development and Coast Conservation, Sri Lanka), but the salvage crew advised that it would be difficult in the current weather conditions. Nalaka Godahewa stated this, answering the Colombian reporters about the wreck site's updates.
X-Press Pearl has settled in an abyss of 21 meters, on the outside of the Colombo anchorage.
"Due to the exposed nature of the anchorage to the prevailing South Westerly Monsoon, it is likely that the wreck removal can only start after the SW monsoon subsides," advised X-Press Feeders.
However, the company is planning to keep a caretaker crew on site to track for debris or other signs of contamination from the salvage company. For now, navigational markers will be placed at the site of the wreck until the vessel is removed.
Presently, a grey gleam was sighted on the water arising from the ship. This could be a result of the cargo being exposed to seawater for so long, according to the vessel's operators. However, signs of oil pollution have been nil in the collected water samples so far.
The salvage team believes the bunker fuel residue burned and evaporated when the vessel caught fire. In support of the teams assisting in the clean-up, international experts have landed in Sri Lanka to examine the extent of the environmental disaster.
Side-scan sonar will be used in the next stage of cleaning, to detect debris or containers that fell from the ship during the fire. X-Press Pearl is anticipated to remain submerged in the coming months, as the monsoon is seen to prevail until September's end.