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Containership fire out of control

A fire on the feeder ship X-PRESS PEARL outside Colombo, Sri Lanka, is now out of control and threatening the safety of the vessel.

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Containership fire out of control

On May 21 X-Press Feeders advised that one container stowed on the deck of the X-PRESS PEARL “caught fire while at Colombo Anchorage.” Local authorities sent firefighting tugs in an effort to put the fire out.


On 24 May X-Press Feeders said the fire was still underway, but “is currently under control”. More firefighting tugs were brought in and a salvage team with fire experts and firefighters had boarded the vessel and were “carrying out the risk assessment”.


In the early hours of 25 May the fire had spread to the point where all crew and 12 fire fighters were evacuated . X-Press Feeders said this was a “precautionary measure”, but images from the Sri Lanka Air Force show the fire has spread significantly, and looks to be out of control to the point of endangering the entire ship.


Specialist fire fighting crew have now arrived from Europe to assist. In addition, the Sri Lanka Air Force has been dropping dry powder suppressing agent on the vessel.


The fire could turn into a significant environmental incident. Other Sri Lankan agencies including the Department of Fisheries and the Marine Environment Protection Agency (MEPA) are now involved and there are reports of oil in the water.


One of the 1,486 containers on board the X-PRESS PEARL was carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid, and Sri Lankan media are reporting that there were “several other chemicals” onboard. Containers have fallen off the vessel, some of which appear to have broken up. MEPA has warned that floating materials and packages from the containers may reach the shores of Colombo, and should not be touched or opened as they could be highly toxic.

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