Monsoon must pass before X-Press Pearl wreck removal operation can get underway

X-Press Feeders, operators of the container ship fire-ravaged 2,700 teu X-Press Pearl, confirmed today that the wreck of the ship is now wholly sitting on the seabed at a depth of 21 m. Caretaker salvors are onsite on a 24-hour watch to deal with any possible debris and report any form of a spill.

A grey sheen continues to be observed emanating from the vessel, and discolouration of the sea in and around the wreck remains. This has been apparent since the vessel’s stern became submerged, and the remnants of the cargo in the 1,486 containers that were onboard were exposed to seawater.

Representatives of ITOPF and Oil Spill Response are monitoring updates from the scene.

Due to the exposed nature of the anchorage to the prevailing southwesterly monsoon, it is likely that the wreck removal can only start after monsoon subsides.

Salvors will install soon navigational warning lights and markers on the wreck for the safety of other vessels. When conditions allow, side-scan sonar will be used to locate any sunken containers or debris in the anchorage for removal.

Arjuna Hettiarachchi, the chairman of Setmil Group, the local agent of X-Press Feeders, was arrested yesterday and later granted bail. Investigators believe Hettiarachchi deleted emails relating to the X-Press Pearl as the accident unfolded off Sri Lanka’s west coast. Earlier in the week, the ship’s captain was also arrested.

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. Thanks for the update Sam. I think it likely that the ship has by now been declared a CTL and has been formally abandoned by owners to H&M insurers. As is usual, H&M will decline to accept the abandonment because they do not want the wreck or to be held responsible for it. However, H&M will formally agree to place the owners in the same position they would be in if H&M had accepted. This ‘abandonment in principle’ process triggers the P&I wreck removal cover such that all associated clearance and security work will now be done by P&I funded ‘wreck removal contractors’ and not H&M funded ‘salvors’. As such it is not technically correct to use the word ‘salvors’ when actually describing the activities of ‘wreck removal contractors’. Apologies for nit picking but some of my former NTU Master of Maritime Studies students may well be reading Splash and, if they remember what I taught them , they may be saying, “No, no Sam, you’ve haven’t quite got that right.” Look forward to your next update on the X-Press Pearl saga Sam. Would be very interesting to know what was in those allegedly deleted e-mails!!

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