(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard are currently working together to control the fire that erupted in an oil tanker off Sri Lanka’s Eastern Coast on Thursday, the Navy said.
The fire in the VLCC MT New Diamond sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point east of Sri Lankan seas erupted after an explosion of a boiler in the main engine room around 8.00 a.m. on 03rd September 2020.
New Diamond, travelling from Kuwait to Paradip, is carrying cargo of 270,000 tonnes of crude and 1,700 tonnes of diesel.
An MI 17 helicopter of Sri Lanka Air Force carried out several aerial operations, until the sunset of Thursday dousing water on the ship to control the flames. Meanwhile, a beach craft is conducting periodic air surveillance and a Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard also monitored the disaster situation from the air.
Further, Sri Lanka Navy Ships Sayura, Sindurala and Ranarisi with two Fast Attack Craft have been deployed in the disaster management operation.
The Indian Coast Guard Ship “Shaurya” which arrived at the location of the distressed oil tanker in the evening hours of Thursday, joined hands with the Sri Lanka Navy Ship ‘Sindurala’ in carrying out the cooling effect from both sides of the ship in distress, the Navy said.
The mission was also augmented by two tugs ‘Rawana’ and ‘Wasamba’ at 1.00 a.m. and 3.00 a.m. respectively after leaving the Hambantota port this morning (04th September). Around 2.00 am, the mission was also joined by the ALP ‘Winger’ another tug made ready by the foreign company that owns the ship in distress. Apart from that, the Indian Navy Ship (INS) ‘Sahyadri’ joined the disaster management operation this morning around 2.00 a.m. and two other Indian Coast Guard ships are scheduled to join the operation by today’s (04th September) afternoon. The two Russian ships that took part in the disaster relief operation left the scene of action after providing necessary support, in the evening of 03rd September.
Meanwhile, 21 crew members of the distressed oil tanker including the 19 persons, whom were initially retrieved by the MV Helen M were taken aboard Sri Lanka Navy ships and have been safely isolated adhering to health guidelines.
The health condition of the third engineering officer of the ship who was admitted to the Kalmunai Hospital after sustaining injuries is also returning to stable condition as of now. As such, the Sri Lanka Navy has rescued 22 of the 23 crew members aboard the oil tanker, however the preliminary information from the ship’s crew confirmed that a Filipino seaman onboard had died in a boiler explosion.
Furthermore, the fire on the ship has so far had no effect on the 270,000 metric tons of crude oil stored there and necessary steps are being taken to prevent the fire from spreading to those crude oil storage facilities. Meanwhile, there is still no risk of the ship leaking oil into the ocean due to the unfortunate turn of events.
However, Sri Lanka Navy, the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Marine Environment Protection Authority and other stakeholders are geared up to take necessary steps to mitigate and manage the risk of possible oil spill in future due to this disaster, the Navy said in the release.
The distressed oil tanker is now at sea at a depth of 3100 meters, about 25 nautical miles (approximately 50 km) off the shore by 5.00 a.m. this morning. Further, 03 main ships of the Sri Lanka Navy, two Fast Attack Craft, one Indian Coast Guard Ship, one Indian Navy Ship and three tugs are near the distressed vessel at 5.30 a.m. Firefighting by air will also resume from 5.30 this morning.
According to the SLN’s update, the superstructure at the rear of the ship is still on fire and it has not affected the ship’s crude storage area.
After having studied the structure of the ship, the firefighting will be carried out by naval teams with expertise in maritime firefighting with the consultation of the Greek captain of the ship, the SLN said.