Charred remains of the X-Press Pearl sinking off Colombo

With white smoke still billowing from its foredeck, the 2,700 teu X-Press Pearl, not yet four months old, started to sink today in waters off Sri Lanka’s west coast.

Salvors had managed to attach a tow to the ship, and at the orders of the country’s president, had commenced to tow the fire-ravaged boxships to deeper waters today.

However, with the engine room flooded, the stern of the ship started to sink and towing efforts were cancelled.

On May 20, the Singapore-flagged X-Press Feeders vessel reported smoke from the cargo hold while at Colombo anchorage, which likely came from poorly packed nitric acid in one container mixing with other chemicals being carried onboard. The next day the vessel reported fire on deck. High winds from a monsoon fanned the flames and Sri Lanka has had to contend with a massive environmental catastrophe as many of the cargoes onboard, including tonnes of micoplastics, have washed up on the island’s shores.

The ship has some 278 tonnes of bunker fuel onboard.

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. There, but for the Grace of God, goes every container ship owner, operator and manager on this planet.

    Don’t ask me how I know this. And if you run boxboats, you know it’s true.

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