Ali Sabry urges caution over possible X-Press Pearl oil leak 

  • MEPA, Navy, NARA advised to be vigilant 
  • Notes public’s right to know damage/compensation 

By Pamodi Waravita 

Justice Minister M.U.M. Ali Sabry (PC) has informed officials at the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), the Navy and the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) to remain consistently cautious about an oil leak from the wrecked MV X-Press Pearl. 

He made these remarks at a meeting held at the Justice Ministry yesterday (15), which had included Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam PC, noted a statement from the Justice Ministry. 

During the meeting, Ali Sabry PC stated that the public have a right to know the details and the extent of the damage that has been caused by the MV X-Press vessel disaster and the compensation which is to be received by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL).

Last week, Ali Sabry PC said that the GoSL may have to resort to international jurisdiction if discussions with the owners of the MV X-Press Pearl fail to deliver the full compensation with regard to the environmental harm that the country has suffered as a result of this disaster. 

The MV X-Press Pearl ship caught fire on 20 May approximately nine 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. The MEPA has stated that the coastal stretch from Mannar in the Northern Province to Kirinde in the Southern Province has encountered varying levels of pollution due to the disaster. 

Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena said last week that from the Rs. 720 million initial interim claim already received by the Government, Rs. 328 million has been distributed to affected fishermen in the Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha Districts.