(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – The Sri Lankan Navy yesterday confirmed that the fuel stain trailing the MT New Diamond crude oil tanker was not crude oil but leakage from the ship’s oil tank, adding that the Donier aircraft belonging to the Indian Coast Guard had sprayed a special chemical on the area where the stain was located to minimize its impact.
The diesel fuel stain was observed in the area about a kilometer away from the ship the previous evening. It was following this discovery that the Indian Coast Guard aided in a special operation to chemically neutralize its effect.
Group Captain and Media spokesperson of the Sri Lanka Navy Indika de Silva speaking to reporters yesterday said that the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) as well as Indian authorities have taken samples of the water to test it. Chairperson of the MEPA Dharshani Lahandapura said that MEPA will be testing to see if any substances have been mixed with sea water as a result of the vessel catching fire. In addition to the investigation, a marine research ship belonging to the National Aquatic Resource Research and Development Agency (NARA) had also arrived at the area yesterday and were conducting further investigations.
The Sri Lankan Navy confirmed that while the Navy and Indian Coast Guard have been able to douse the fire which reignited, they were waiting for favorable weather conditions to initiate a joint-operation. “Three individuals from the rescue team were onboard the ship yesterday,” the Group Captain said. The Sri Lankan Navy will coordinate with the Disaster Management Centre on the future steps, he said, adding that the decision to tow the ship to Sri Lankan shores lies at the discretion of the Government and the salvage team.
He also revealed that the ship’s engine and pumping rooms were filled with water and dismissed claims that the ship may capsize adding that the Navy does not foresee the possibility of the ship capsizing or sinking.
Photographs of the ship released yesterday showed that the fire and smoke emanating from the ship had subsided. The mission of dousing the fire which erupted on board the VLCC oil tanker commenced on 3rd September with the SLAF Beech King B200 aircraft being the first to arrive at the location of the tanker which was at that time 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point east of Sri Lanka.
This mission which will be of historical significance to the SLAF was undertaken on the instructions of the Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sumangala Dias under the guidance of the Director of Air Operations, Air Vice Marshal Ravi Jayasinghe. To date, the SLAF has conducted 176 flying missions and dropped 440,000 liters of water on to the blazing tanker. In addition, SLAF helicopters also dropped a total of 4,500 Kgs Dry Chemical Powder onto vital areas of the tanker.
During the seven days of this operation, a Beech King B200 aircraft from the No 3 Maritime Squadron, MI-17 Helicopters from the No 6 Helicopter Squadron, Bell 212 Helicopters from the No 7 Squadron and Y-12 aircraft from the No 8 Light Transport Squadron have conducted 176 flying operations spanning over 100 flying hours. It must be mentioned that these daring flying operations were carried out amidst extreme adverse weather conditions and special mention should be made on the dropping of Dry Chemical Powder which was done at very low altitudes in order to achieve precise drops on vital areas of the tanker. This is the first and only occasion to date where SLAF helicopters had dropped DCP on to a blazing tanker.
Further, another team of the Sri Lanka Navy under the direction of Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenna, Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, will conduct a special training on disaster management yesterday to inspect the vessel and monitor the situation after the disaster situation is brought under control.
The operation will be carried out with the participation of overseas rescue and disaster management teams using ships, tugboats and aircraft belonging to the Sri Lanka Navy and other stakeholders. The Sri Lanka Navy will continue to monitor the New Diamond’s disaster situation until further notice, in coordination with other Disaster Management Parties.