Agreement only on $ 3.6 m of initial $ 40 m so far
By Pamodi WaravitaThe Protection and Indemnity Insurance (P&I) Club of the MV X-Press Pearl ship has requested further proof of the damages that occurred as a result of the fire on board the said vessel in order to pay the remaining amount of the initial interim claim, The Morning learnt. Official sources told us that further documents are currently being prepared by the Attorney General’s Department, as requested by the insurers.The insurers have so far only agreed to pay approximately $ 3.6 million of the initial interim claim of $ 40 million, covering the costs incurred in the 10-day period from 23 May to 3 June.In a statement on 12 July, the Ministry of Justice noted that about $ 2.1 million of this $ 3.6 million would be given to those directly affected by the disaster in the fisheries industry.The Sunday Morning reported yesterday (25) that the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) is set to hand over the relevant documents with regard to the second interim claim for the MV X-Press Pearl disaster this week.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 environmental harm caused by the incident has raised serious concerns in various quarters, including environmentalists, who have termed it as the “worst marine environmental disaster” that the country has faced.Reportedly, the ship had carried in its cargo about 25 tonnes of nitric acid, 300 metric tonnes (MT) of bunker oil, and 78 MT of plastic pellets or “nurdles”. Environmentalists have speculated that the plastic pellets could plague the country’s marine environment, including its pristine beaches, for years to come. Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Chairman Hemantha Withanage has claimed that over 275 turtles and 46 dolphins have died as a result of the incident. In response to the alleged oil sheen surrounding the ship’s wreckage, MEPA Chairman Dharshani Lahandapura had told The Sunday Morning that an investigation has begun to determine the nature of the substance. She had further said that the removal of the shipwreck has been delayed due to the prevailing weather conditions, although authorities fear that the prolonged delay in removing the wreckage poses a continued threat to the ecological balance.The incident has heavily affected both the country’s marine environment and the fisheries industry. The criminal proceedings surrounding the incident will be heard in the Colombo Magistrate’s Court again on 30 July.