MV X-Press Pearl disaster: Substance surrounding wreck not bunker oil says MEPA
Further investigations underway
First interim report to be out soon
By Yumiko Perera
Investigations are underway, according to the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), to determine as to what may have caused the film of some substance, which appears to be an oil slick, presently surrounding the wreck of the MV X-Press Pearl vessel, The Sunday Morning learnt.
Speaking with The Sunday Morning, MEPA Chairperson and Attorney-at-Law Dharshani Lahandapura said that the main worry is a potential bunker oil spill, as the vessel contains nearly 300 MT of bunker oil. “However, from what we have observed, the film of this substance does not seem to have been caused by the bunker oil, as we would have been able to identify it from its appearance. From what we have observed, the film of this substance that is visible at present is very thin and therefore, the impact it would leave behind would be very minimal. We have collected samples, and we have sent those for analysis to get clarifications as to what it is. But as per our observations so far, it is not bunker oil.”
Meanwhile, according to Lahandapura, five panels of experts have been appointed to assess and secure the compensation for the damages incurred by the country. “There are five expert panels appointed, including one assessing the economic losses incurred; then the environmental impact, of which MEPA is taking the lead along with the Environment Ministry; the impact on the fisheries sector which is headed by the Fisheries Minister; and a legal experts panel. Likewise, there are specialist committees appointed and all of these committees are working towards assessing and securing compensation.”
Lahandapura added that MEPA is continuously monitoring the situation, as well as collecting further samples and evidence in this regard. “From our end, we are proceeding with the assessment at present and we have collected several samples, data, and evidence and we will continue to do that. We would also try to release at least the first interim report as early as possible.”
According to Lahandapura, MEPA, in co-ordination with the Navy, was able to carry out clean-ups over the past few weeks, and they would continue to do so. “We have put in nearly 10,300 man-days so far since the start of the disaster, and at least 1,000 people have been deployed per day. We have also collected nearly 1,000 MT of waste so far.”
Attempts made by The Sunday Morning to contact the Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena proved futile.