New Diamond fire extinguished

The fire onboard VLCC New Diamond (IMO 9191424) has been extinguished, the Sri Lankan Navy said at the weekend. The laden vessel had been carrying 2m barrels of oil.

New Diamond had sent a distress signal during the morning of September 3rd following an explosion and fire in the main engine room. The supertanker was at the time about 24nm off the east coast of Sri Lanka. Having lost power, she began to drift towards the coast of the island, coming to within 18nm of the coast. A tow was eventually fitted and the New Diamond has now been taken to a safer distance, some 22nm away from the island.

The vessel was carrying 270,000 mt of crude from Mina Al Ahmadi, Kuwait to Paradip, India, the Sri Lankan Navy reported. There were also 1,700 mt of diesel fuel on board.

The Sri Lankan Navy said that the fire had been brought under control by Saturday evening, about 79 hours after it was first reported.

New Shipping Limited of Athens, Greece, has appointed SMIT Singapore for the salvage job, the navy said.

One of the 23 crew members of New Diamond, of whom five were Greek and 18 were from the Philippines, was missing and presumed dead. A Filipino, he was thought to have been in the engine room when a boiler explosion occurred. The rest of the crew have been taken off the ship by the Sri Lankan navy, with one injured crew member flown to the capital Colombo for treatment.

No oil has been observed to have leaked from the ship.

The Sri Lankan Navy said that “although the fire has now been completely doused, there is a possibility of a recurrence of the fire due to the high temperature inside the ship and environmental influences. Therefore, the Sri Lanka Navy is on high alert and is ready for any emergency. Meanwhile, a team of 10 British and Netherlands experts, including salvage operations experts, assessors and a legal adviser arrived in Sri Lanka this morning under the facilitation of the company that works as the commercial and technical operator of MT New Diamond. The team of experts will make an assessment of the damage caused to the ship. Accordingly, the proceedings regarding the ship will be decided on their recommendations.”

A senior official in the Indian Ocean nation’s navy said on Friday that there was no real risk of an oil spill. Director-General of Operations Rear-Admiral Y N Jayarathna said that the navy’s view was that there was no real danger of a spill because the fire on the ship has been contained in the rear section of the vessel. He said that “the live flames have now died down and there is only white smoke emanating from the vessel”.

Three tug boats, five Sri Lankan navy ships as well as two craft from the Russian navy and three from the Indian navy have been assisting in an operation to fight the fire and tow the ship away from the coast, after it began drifting towards land.

At present the vessel is being held by the salvage team in deep sea 21.7 miles east of the Sri Lankan town of Pottuvil.

Sri Lanka’s meteorology department had already modelled the impact of 70,000 tonnes of crude oil – a quarter of the ship’s cargo – spilling into the ocean. The simulation, a worst case scenario according to authorities, found that such a spill would not immediately threaten the country’s east coast.

But Dharshani Lahandapura, chair of Sri Lanka’s federal Marine Environment Protection Authority, told Reuters that any spill from the ship would be catastrophic for marine life.

2000-built, Panama-flagged, 160,079 gt New Diamond is owned by Porto Emporios Shipping Inc care of manager New Shipping Ltd-Lib of Piraeus, Greece. It is entered with West of England (Claims Team Greece) on behalf of Porto Emporios Shipping Inc.