MT New Diamond enters Maldivian territorial waters

By Sarah Hannan

The Sri Lanka Navy Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre safely transferred the MT New Diamond oil tanker into Maldivian territorial waters on Tuesday evening (6), The Morning learnt.

“The MT New Diamond crude oil tanker tow operation was successfully carried out; it was transferred into Maldivian territorial waters and the towing operation monitoring process was handed over to the Indian Coast Guard,” the Sri Lanka Navy revealed.

It’s been just over a month since the crude oil tanker sounded a distress call on 3 September when one of the boilers in the ship’s engine room exploded and caught on fire, endangering the crew and causing considerable marine pollution off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka just 38 nautical miles away from Sangamankanda Point.

The Sri Lanka Air Force, Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Indian Navy, and Indian Coast Guard responded promptly to the distress call and assisted in dousing the fire on two occasions.

Although Sri Lanka’s litigation process followed after a few hiccups, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) stepped in to take the necessary legal action against the ship’s Captain and the owners of the ship in order to claim the rescue and fire mitigation operation costs that Sri Lanka incurred.

It was only after the ship’s owner paid the rescue and fire mitigation claim of Rs. 442 million that the ship’s towing process was allowed to commence.

As stated by the MEPA, separate legal action will be taken for pollution caused due to the bunker oil spill which is showing a visible impact to the marine ecosystem.

On 28 September, National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) oceanographers observed that the turtle habitat in the eastern seas was impacted in the region where the bunker oil spill had taken place.

At the request of Attorney General (AG) Dappula de Livera, following an observation made by Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris on 17 September, the Captain was taken into custody on charges of abandoning the ship when the fire broke out while it was transporting crude oil from Kuwait to India, adding that their irresponsible actions resulted in a disastrous situation.

The Additional Magistrate then issued summons noting that the Captain of MT New Diamond, who was named as a suspect, had failed to co-operate with the ongoing investigations. 

The MEPA, with the assistance of the NARA, launched further observations and studies into the bunker oil spill that was caused by the MT New Diamond.

The sea route the crude oil tanker was originally set to take was from Kuwait’s Port Mina Al Ahmadi on 23 August to reach India’s Port Paradip on 5 September.

However, following the accident, the owners decided to tow the ship back to the port of origin.