Bad weather delays wreck removal  

  • Delay poses further threat to ecological balance 
  • MEPA still uncertain of number of containers on seabed 

By Yumiko Perera 

The removal of the MV X-Press Pearl vessel wreck has been delayed due to bad weather conditions, The Sunday Morning learnt. 

Meanwhile, authorities fear that the prolonged delay in removing the vessel from the waters continues to pose a threat to the ecological balance. 

According to Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Chairperson and Attorney-at-Law Dharshani Lahandapura, local authorities have requested the prompt removal of the wreck to minimise further ecological damage.  

Speaking with The Sunday Morning, Lahandapura said: “We are still uncertain as to how many containers are left on the seabed, or the material that they may contain.  

“We have made multiple requests in this regard to the owners as well as the wreck removal company; however, the prevailing weather conditions have made it a bit of a challenge. We are confident that they would do the needful as soon as conditions improve.” 

Meanwhile, an oil sheen was reported to be visible around the debris of the X-Press Pearl wreck over the past few days, The Sunday Morning learnt.  

Lahandapura stated that investigations are underway at present to determine what the substance is. 

Furthermore, she added that an Indian naval survey vessel that had been deployed to locate the containers that had fallen overboard the vessel had been able to identify several large objects in the vicinity of the wreck that is believed to be debris from vessel. 

The “INS Sarvekshak” had been deployed at the request of the Government in late June to conduct a survey in the vicinity of the ill-fated MV X-Press Pearl.  

Meanwhile, in a press release earlier this week, the Ministry of Justice revealed that necessary arrangements are being made to obtain the assistance of international lawyers, and their selection would be done by a special committee with the approval of the Cabinet.  

However, attempts by The Sunday Morning to contact Merchant Shipping Secretariat Director General Ajith Seneviratne, Minister of Justice Ali Sabry, and Secretary to the Minister of Justice M.P.P.K. Mayadunne proved futile.  

In late June, the country had received Rs. 720 million as the initial interim claim for the X-Press Pearl disaster.  

While Rs. 420 million of the sum has been allocated to compensate those who had been directly impacted by the incident in the fisheries sector, Rs. 300 million had been allocated to locate the remaining sunken containers from the vessel. 

The X-Press Pearl caught fire on 20 May and a subsequent explosion aboard the carrier on 24 May threw overboard some of its container cargo, resulting in the release of chemicals and plastic pellets into the ocean, causing a devastating amount of marine pollution and the death of marine life.