Sri Lanka braces for bunker tank breach as X-Press Pearl comes to rest in shallow waters

Sri Lankan authorities have reached out to India for urgent assistance with booms, skimmers and oil dispersants being readied in the event the bunker tanks of the burnt X-Press Pearl rupture.

Efforts to tow the badly burnt ship to deeper water failed yesterday as the ship’s stern sank, and is currently sitting on the ocean floor at depths of just 21 m, with the aft of the vessel slowly submerging.

“Salvors remain on scene to deal with any possible debris supported by the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, who have oil spill response capabilities on standby,” an update from the ship’s operator, X-Press Feeders, stated today.

The ship, located off Sri Lanka’s west coast, has 278 tonnes of bunker fuel onboard.

On May 20, the Singapore-flagged 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.

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. Lucky that towing her to deep water failed,
    Now on 21 m depth only, she is more easy to be scrapped and removed by salvors and all the waste, fuels and other possible dangerous cargo remainings etc can be cleared safely.
    I would say, start immediately with this job, before it is too late !

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