Chemical-filled container ship has been on fire for a week

A firefighting operation continues for the seventh day on the chemical-carrying container ship X-Press Pearl anchored about 18 km northwest of Colombo. The vessel is in danger of bursting, leading to hundreds of tonnes of fuel leaking, AFP warned on Thursday.

The fire broke out on Thursday, April 20, as the vessel carrying 1,486 containers containing, among other things, 25 tonnes of nitric acid and other chemicals waited to enter Colombo port.

It was an acid leak that allegedly led to the fire, the fire then quickly spread through the ship, taking over containers and the superstructure, agencies reported. The crew of 25 were evacuated on Tuesday. Many of the containers fell into the sea, with burnt items from the ship being thrown ashore.

On Thursday, firefighters and experts drawn from Europe joined the rescue operation led by Sri Lankan and Indian salvage ships and tugboats to help save the ship. Rescue efforts are being hampered by strong monsoon winds.

There are more than 300 tonnes of fuel on board the X-Press Pearl. According to the Sri Lankan Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), the fire has weakened the structure of the entire ship to the point that it may crack, leading to an oil spill.

With these conditions, stopping the spill seems impossible, we are unable to tow the ship, military will be deployed on the surrounding beaches to clean up the coast in case of fuel contamination, MEPA chief Dharshani Lahandapura told AFP agency.

The X-Press Pearl departed from the port of Hazira in India and was heading for Singapore, under whose flag the vessel is flying. On the way, the ship was scheduled to stop in Colombo.



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