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MV X-Press Pearl disaster: SL yet to receive 1st interim compensation claim  

2 years ago

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  • MEPA hopeful of ship operator honouring claim 

  • Compensation for ecological damages being assessed 

  • 1,500 MT debris cleared from beaches 

  • Navy et al. move to delicate manual sand sifting, washing   

By Yumiko Perera   Sri Lanka is yet to receive the first interim compensation claim made with regard to the MV X-Press Pearl maritime disaster, The Sunday Morning learnt.  According to Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Chairperson and Attorney-at-Law Dharshani Lahandapura, the interim claim had been sent to the operator of the vessel through the Attorney General's Department.  "We are yet to receive the interim payment, but so far, the feedback we have received is positive, and I believe that they will make the payment. Although it would take some time for the country to receive the compensation, as their lawyers are still in the process of studying the data, I believe that they would honour this very soon without taking much time, as the losses that have been incurred are direct," Lahandapura noted.  According to Lahandapura, the compensation for the ecological damage the disaster has caused is still in the process of being assessed.  Furthermore, Lahandapura added that significant progress has been made on the beach clean-ups.  "The tri-forces personnel have done a wonderful job and it wasn't easy at all. The MEPA took on the responsibility of co-ordinating the task and took the lead in the beach clean-ups along with several other institutions," she noted.  As explained by Lahandapura, nearly 1,500 MT of debris had been cleared from coastlines, and the tri-forces have now moved on to the delicate cleaning up activities where they are manually filtering pellets and other plastic particles from the sand.   "We were able to remove a significant amount of debris within a very few days, and we have spent nearly 12,000 man-days for the clean-up. It was a painstaking effort from all those who participated in the process and it is still ongoing," she elaborated. Stating that heavy machinery cannot be used for the clean-up process, Lahandapura emphasised that along several beaches in Negombo such as Sarakkuwa and Kapumgoda, the tri-forces personnel are washing sand manually.  While the local agent of the MV X-Press Pearl ship had recently been enlarged on bail, a criminal investigation is underway.  Attempts made by The Sunday Morning to contact Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena and Merchant Shipping Secretariat Director General Ajith Seneviratne proved futile.  The ship caught fire on 20 May and an explosion aboard the carrier on 24 May threw overboard some of its container cargo, thus resulting in the release of chemicals, plastic pellets, etc. into the ocean, resulting in marine pollution and the death of marine life.