MEPA suspects residual oil in sunken MV Xpress Pearl
BY NABIYA VAFFOOR
Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) fears there may still be oil in the sunken MV Xpress Pearl, in spite of various assurances given earlier. MEPA Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura, confirmed that foreign experts believe that there is no bunker oil remaining in the ship. However, she said the ship’s owners have been informed that the wreckage can be removed only once there is 100 per cent confirmation that there is no bunker oil remaining in the vessel.
She said that divers will need to go inside the wreckage to conduct a physical inspection and confirm that there is no oil left. “If there is oil left, they are obliged to transfer it to another tanker before removing the wreckage.
The ship’s owners have called for tenders to remove the wreckage and a number of companies, including those from Sri Lanka, have expressed interest and they will be called on Tuesday (21),” noted Lahandapura. She confirmed that a caretaker company has deployed divers to conduct underwater surveys of the containers. “Yet the divers cannot be sent to conduct a physical inspection because of the weather conditions and so on.
Therefore, we are waiting for the right time. We expect to get the conformation shortly and remove the wreckage by the end of November,” she said. Lahandapura said the wreckage continues to be monitored, including by drones, for any possible oil spill. She said that a thin sheen of an oil slick which first emerged after the ship sank is still visible but has reduced.
“We want to remove this as early as possible. Coastal fishing is banned mainly because of these sunken containers. Sri Lanka is keen to have the ship and containers which are in the seabed removed at the earliest,” she said.