Colombo ship fire: Blaze restricted to small area, smoke density reduced; no oil spill

Written By: Sidharth MP WION
Chennai, Tamil Nadu Updated: May 30, 2021, 08:42 PM(IST)

Colombo ship fire Photograph:( WION )

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Currently, three Indian Coast Guard ships, Vaibhav, Vajra and Samudra Prahari (a pollution response vessel) are on the scene along with four tugs deployed by Sri Lanka

Efforts of Indian Coast guard (ICG) vessels and Sri Lankan tugs over the last six days (since May 25th) have restricted the fire on container ship MV X-Press Pearl to a small portion in the ship’s rear.

In what is being regarded as a positive outcome, the smoke emanating from the vessel has turned from black to grey/white, with its intensity also getting reduced.

Also read | Colombo ship fire appears under control, no oil spill, says Indian Coast Guard

Currently, three Indian Coast Guard ships, Vaibhav, Vajra and Samudra Prahari (a pollution response vessel) are on the scene along with four tugs deployed by Sri Lanka. 

Daily aerial surveillance by ICG Dornier aircraft has indicated no oil spill in the area. The Coast Guard adds that owing to the careful and measured execution of the firefighting operation, there has been no change in the vessel’s trim (which means that the front and rear portions are floating at equal level).

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Likewise, there is no change in the draught/draft of the vessel (indicating that the overall vessel has not gone lower than usual). Hence, it can be said that the stability and watertight integrity of the vessel are intact.

ICG ships and Sri Lankan tugs are undertaking continuous boundary cooling (spraying water and foam to prevent the further spread of fire).

Also read | Sri Lanka faces marine disaster as waves of plastic from burning ship wash ashore

In addition to this, dry chemical powder bags are being dropped over the burning vessel by Sri Lankan helicopter to contain and extinguish the metallic fire. 

Besides their fire fighting capabilities (spraying 660 liters of water/foam per minute), ICG vessels are also equipped with adequate pollution response capabilities in case of an oil spill, if any. The presence of a specialised pollution response vessel, ICGS Samudra Prahari, since Saturday has provided added strength to the overall operation.

This round-the-clock joint fire fighting operation into its sixth day has been named 'Operation Sagar Aaraksha 2', which symbolises growing maritime cooperation and collaboration between India and the Indian ocean Littoral state.

In September 2020, a similar joint operation between India and Sri Lanka was named 'Sagar Aaraksha'. Back then, ICG ships and Sri Lankan vessels were involved in a fire fighting operation onboard MT New Diamond. The joint efforts undertaken off the East Sri Lankan coast averted the risk of 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil spilling from the very large crude carrier.

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