Sri Lanka to prosecute captain of burnt VLCC

Sri Lanka will seek at least RS340m ($1.9m) from the owner of the stricken VLCC New Diamond for assistance given to the vessel since it caught fire on September 3, the coordinating officer to the country’s attorney general said. Further bills are likely to be added in the coming weeks.

The Panamanian-flagged ship, which suffered a boiler explosion leading to a major fire, is owned by Adam Polemis’s New Shipping and insured by the West of England P&I Club.

The fully-loaded vessel is still in Sri Lankan waters, although the fire was completely doused last week and authorities insist the cargo tanks are intact.

Sri Lankan authorities have said they will file negligence and pollution charges against the Greek captain of the ship, which leaked bunker fuel off the island’s eastern coastline last week.

“There is sufficient evidence to prosecute the skipper under the marine pollution act as well as the penal code for criminal negligence,” a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Dappula de Livera told reporters in Colombo.

Stormy conditions around the ship today are making salvage operations tricky.

Authorities and appointed salvors, SMIT Singapore, are still working out a plan to get the 270,000 tonnes of oil on the ship to the Paradip refinery of its customer, Indian Oil Corp.

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 wonder what ‘sufficient evidence’ the Sri Lankan authorities have to prosecute for criminal negligence?
    Bridge audio?
    Planned maintenance and HOR records?
    Presumably if they prove that then they can go after the Captain for the pollution too because it’s hard to see how anyone could be prosecuted for pollution resulting from an accident…

  2. Boiler explosion was reported as the cause of fire in the engine room that went beyond control.
    Was Master working on boiler and chief engineer and other engine staff sleeping?
    Its important to look at the detail maintenance/repair/ trouble history of that boiler onboard including the spares parts involved. These things are never given enough attention. Many a times chronic troubles remain unattended. Industry best practices are not followed. Many small troubles are not handled correctly and engine staff always tried to run the show somehow which some Managers thinks that these are the smart ways to do machinery maintenance.
    Spare Master and get after Technical staff responsible for machineries onboard.
    Let some professionalism and due attention is given to technical matters onboard considering that machinery too can lead the marine disasters at sea.

    1. People are always finding a way to say something or blame someone . Why nobody is asking for the details of the investigation report ? If we are still waiting for the report just please be calm . We can talk once we have report in hand . I think that’s the best way for now.

  3. I see I am not alone in wondering why a reported engine room fire starting from a boiler explosion is the Master’s fault. No doubt this will become clear.

    1. As per the Maritime Law, pertaining to Vessel Management & operation at sea , remember that Master is the Ultimate Authority / Responsible Person on board a Vessel. He has his ultimate power even to override Ship Managers & Owners in case of any Emergency, involving Safety of crew onboard, threat to the Environment & the Cargo Vessel carrying.
      The fire may be a an unfortunate incident, cause is not yet established, whether it originated from E/R or Accommodation.
      It seems, negligence & incompetency in part of everyone on Board, Master to bottom Ranks.
      If it was started from E/R, they failed to contain it & douse the fire after isolating E/R & Flooding with CO2. How come Fire spread to the Accommodation? Going through the Pictures & Videos, Accommodation is completely gutted.
      Now days, Shipping Managements are employing incompetent Officers with Panama & Honduras Certificates, which are available in the Market for a price. I have come across people from rating becoming Master & Chief Engineer in a period of 6-7 years with PANAMA / HONDURAS Certificates. The inquiry should take on that angle too. Verify the Certificate of Master / Chief Engineer to the lowest Rank.
      However, prim a-fascia Master is responsible, he can not be held solely responsible unless a through Investigation is held by competent Authorities. If vessel is manned with incompetent Officers & Crew, then the SHORE MANAGEMENT also equally Responsible, before pointing the finger towards to the MASTER.

      1. Dear Sir
        As You were so kind to mention the phenomenon of existing and in use fake cerificate pls be so kind to visit IMO website ” Fradulent certificates” , where it has been noted that :
        … a total of 12,635 detected cases of forgery in certificates of competency and equivalent endorsements. The Committee noted, however, that, of the total number of reported cases, 12,000 had been reported by ONE SINGLE ADMINISTRATION in South East Asia, and that all these cases were currently being analysed to assess the level and nature of forgery involved.
        END QUOTE
        Also please refer to some maritime news outlets, like Safety4sea and Hellenic Shipping News ,( to name a few), reporting on the biggest certificate scam ever in 2020. It would be I suppose quite appropriate to name the biggest actors there and remind the commenting participants, which country was singled out instead focusing rather unfairly on Panama only.

        As You Sir have been so kind to observe that ” cause of fire has not been yet established” , then your further deliberations on blame assignment, proximate causes or other speculations , can serve all participants of this learned discussion, rather as a prima facie evidence of Your valuable comment having an attributes of ……… reductio ad absurdum .

  4. Has the accident investigation been completed to indict, prosecute and sentence the Master?
    Interesting episodes ahead!

  5. Smells like a politically induced witch hunt against the Master with the goal of furthering the AG’s career. Less press conference hysteria and full details of evidence and related statutory breaches would be more appropriate.

  6. I would wager that long standing deficiencies went unattended for a considerable time. It must be determined how long the Master served on that ship. A long time the Master may well carry more responsibility. If, like a lot of fly by night companies, the ship was run by a bunch of short time masters and crew, then the management company sure seems more culpable Seems to me that problems that caused the incident cannot all be credibly laid in the lap of the master. It sounds wonderful and romantic to simply say the accident was due to the fortunes of the master….that fairy tale isn’t near as dark as the real saga.

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