Blazing fully laden VLCC towed away from Sri Lankan coastline

Naval ships and airplanes from India, Sri Lanka and Russia continue to douse the blaze on the fully laden New Diamond VLCC as sad news from Sri Lanka emerges that one Filipino crewmember died from the inferno.

Fearing the worst, authorities are now attempting to tow the ship away from the Sri Lankan coastline to deeper waters.

The fire, which erupted from a boiler in the engine room of the Panamanian-flagged New Shipping tanker in the early hours of Thursday morning, saw all the crew evacuate. As well as one crewmember dying from the initial explosion, another seafarer has suffered burns and was helicoptered to a hospital. The ship was en route from Kuwait to Paradip on charter to Indian Oil Corp when the accident happened to the southeast of Sri Lanka.

The fire did spread to the 20-year-old vessel’s superstructure but as of midday local time it had yet to move to the ship’s cargo holds. However, a 2m long crack has been observed above the waterline on the port aft of the ship.

A delicate towing operation is now underway even as the ship continues to burn.

Initially, the ship was stranded 38 km east of the Sri Lankan town of Thirukovil, but drifted within 25 km of the coast after being abandoned.

Authorities are now towing it eastward, away from the coast. The ship is carrying 270,000 tonnes of crude oil for processing at IOC’s refinery on the east coast of India.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. I would say fire started in engine casing. Burned paint all around funnel indicates it clearly.

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