50 containers worth of plastic debris on beaches

  • CEA has collected plastic debris equivalent to 51 containers

  • Over 3,000 MTs of debris stored for Court proceedings

By Pamodi Waravita


The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) has collected, from the Western coastline, a load of plastic debris equivalent to the contents of approximately 51 containers used in shipping, following the disaster onboard the MV X-Press Pearl.

“Each container, on average, stores 60 metric tonnes (MTs) of debris. We have collected approximately 51 of the 1,846 containers which the ship was carrying in its cargo,” CEA Chairman Siripala Amarasinghe told The Morning yesterday (10).

Reportedly, 823 of those containers had stored plastic or polythene in them.

Currently, the containers are being stored in a storage facility as evidence for the ongoing Court case. Based on discussions with the Attorney General’s (AG) Department, the CEA would have to decide on what to do with the debris after the Court proceedings are over, said Amarasinghe.

“The debris is being collected in buckets, along with the sand. We would probably have to separate the sand if we are going to burn the debris,” noted Amarasinghe.

When asked about the debris that civilians initially collected off the beaches, Amarasinghe said that the Police had handed over what they had confiscated to the CEA.

The CEA has also been engaged in monitoring groundwater samples from the area’s wells and the air in the Negombo area for air pollution. According to Amarasinghe, testing so far has shown that there are no chemicals present in the groundwater or any increased levels of air pollution as a result of the disaster.

Meanwhile, the CEA’s next steps would be to collect the containers which had fallen into the sea.

“I have already requested the salvage company to keep us informed about the progress of this process as we would have to do safety tests and following technical mechanisms before taking these containers back into the country,” said Amarasinghe.

Furthermore, the CEA has also received the shipment details of the MV X-Press Pearl and are currently conducting independent investigations on which of the ship’s cargo was due for unloading in Sri Lanka.

“We want to determine which of the cargo was due to be unloaded at the Colombo Harbour and which importers had ordered these products. If companies are importing any toxic chemicals, they must obtain CEA certification. We want to ensure that proper procedures have been followed by these importers,” explained Amarasinghe.

Yesterday, the Galle Face beach recorded the first dead sea turtle washed up on it following the fire on the ship. Currently, about 19 dead sea turtles and one dead dolphin have been reported from around the island, although the authorities are yet to conclusively state as to whether the increased sighting of dead marine animals is directly linked to the wrecked MV X-Press Pearl.

The MV X-Press Pearl ship caught fire on 20 May, approximately 9.5 nautical miles away from the Colombo Harbour, after having anchored there a few hours prior to the fire. A subsequent explosion on 24 May led to the fire spreading and a number of containers aboard it falling into the sea, thus releasing pollutants – including plastic pellets – into the water. Since then, debris and deceased marine life have washed up on the country’s Western coastline.

The State and Governmental authorities are presently involved in beach cleanups, collecting evidence, and preparing claims to seek compensation for the various damages incurred by the country owing to this disaster.