Fire erupts on brand-new boxship carrying 25 tons of nitric acid off Sri Lanka

A fire erupted on the 2,743 teu X-Press Pearl yesterday afternoon off Colombo. The ship, which was carrying around 25 tons of nitric acid among is cargoes, radioed for help and the Sri Lankan navy dispatched a number of vessels to douse the severe blaze at an anchorage 9.5 nautical miles from Colombo port. Owners X-Press Feeders had only taken delivery of this ship in February this year.

Sri Lankan authorities were able to board the ship last night and they have suggested the fire started from a reaction to the chemicals being transported on the boxship.

There have been no reports of injuries. Naval vessels remain in close proximity, dousing the ship.

“Currently the fire has been brought under control,” a spokesperson for the navy said this afternoon.

“It is too early to conclude that the fire is completely out. So our units are on standby. There is heat due to the steel environment,” he added

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 just read the MSDS on Nitric Acid. I knew it was nasty stuff, but the details are pretty unsettling. Misdeclared? Improperly packed and stored? Was a cask of the stuff pierced? Be interesting to find out, but in the meantime, I hope none of the crew or rescuers suffer thermal or chemical burns!

    1. Yep, quite nasty stuff. Top tier acid.

      Either improperly packaged, or as you said punctured/leaking.

      It does not take much at all to start a very bad reaction.

      The fumes produced are the primary cause of fatalities. Near instant lung destruction.

  2. This fire was aggravated by Sri Lankan authorities. They dropped powder instead of high expansion foam. And the legal advice from the Attorney General was wrong and he did not advice the properly

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