Sri Lanka receives $2.5m in interim compensation after X-Press Pearl fire

Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda of Sri Lanka has reported that it had received a third and largest interim payment from the insurance company as a result of the fire aboard container ship X-Press Pearl (IMO 9875343) in May 2021.

The latest payment totalled approximately $2.5m. Sri Lanka had previously received two interim payments, each valued at just under $1m. To date, the insurance company has provided a total of nearly $3.6 million in interim payments. The ministry reported that the payments were being dispersed to more than 15,000 fishermen who are still unable able to fish in four western regions of the country.

The Sri Lankan government is continuing its legal claims. It has said that it expects it to take many years before the clean-up is completed.

The X-Press Pearl caught fire while anchored off Colombo in May 2021 (see IMN May 24th 2021 and subsequent dates for the long unfolding of the tale). The fire burned for nearly two weeks. When salvage teams attempted to tow the vessel out to deep water it sunk.

Millions of pounds of nurdles, a small plastic pellet used in the production of plastic, leaked from containers into the ocean and washed up on the country’s beaches.

The ministry said it had already spent more than $260,000 on the beach clean-up.

To date the Marine Environment Protection Agency has removed more than 1,600 metric tonnes of nurdles and chemicals released from the ship, all of which is being stored while they continue to receive legal advice on the country’s damage claims.

The plastic pollution and other chemicals continue to spread with the ministry saying the clean-up remains very complex. Part of the challenge stems from the range of pollutants involved, which includes oil, hazardous chemicals, and plastics. There also remained a lack of clarity regarding the nature and status of a substantial part of the vessel’s cargo.

Work to remove sections of the X-Press Pearl is due to resume later this year after the current monsoon season. Starting late last year, loose debris was being removed while a survey was completed of the seafloor and the first stage of the wreck removal began.

The salvage team from Shanghai Salvage Co reported that vessel had cracked amidships. This necessitated a change to the salvage plan. The salvors were attaching lifting wires under the hull earlier this year and working to remove the accommodation block.

The next phase of the salvage project will focus on splitting the wreck entirely into two sections and preparing for the lifting of each section. The goal is to lift the wreck sections, with cargo still on board. The sections and any other cargo and debris will be recovered from the bottom, with a goal of completing the project by September 2023. All the debris will be properly treated and recycled.

When the incident occurred in May 2021 2021-built, Singapore-flagged, 31,629 gt X-Press Pearl was owned by Eos Ro Pte Ltd care of manager Sea Consortium Pte Ltd (X-Press Feeders) of Singapore, ISM manager is Eastaway Ship Management Pte. It was entered with London Club on behalf of Killiney Shipping Pte Ltd.