Oil spill feared after chemical carrying ship caught fire off Sri Lanka

Posted by Anita Froneman on 2 June 2021

A cargo ship carrying various chemicals caught fire off the coast of Sri Lanka on May 20. The fire burned relentlessly and authorities managed to put it out after 13 days on Wednesday.

Now, authorities fear an oil spill could cause detrimental environmental damage. The ship that contains 350 tons of oil, is sinking. The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl also spilled several tons of plastic nurdles into the ocean. Sri Lanka’s Marine Protection Authority described the spill as “probably the worst beach pollution in our history.”

Toxic chemicals

The ship contained toxic chemicals including 25 metric tons of nitric acid, according to CNN. Military units from Sri Lanka and India have been deployed to try and prevent the ship from sinking and breakage leading to an oil spill. Severe weather conditions have made this near impossible.

“Salvers are trying to tow the ship to deep sea before it sinks to minimise the marine pollution but the rear area of the ship has drifted,” Sri Lanka Navy spokesman Captain Indika Silva told the BBC.

A criminal investigation into the crew of the ship has been launched.

Shipping’s impact on oceans

Oil spillage from ships continues to be one of the largest threats to marine life. Oil deteriorates the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals and the water repellent abilities of a bird’s feathers. Many animals like dolphins and whales inhale oil, and birds often swallow it when trying to clean themselves.

Shipping remains key to the global economy as over 80% of goods are transported by water. However, aside from oil spills, ships pose other threats to the environment and marine life. Ship strikes often result in injuries or death of animals, and exposure to chronic low-frequency ship noise can interfere with animal behavior. It may also result in physiological and physical impacts, according to research published in Frontiers.

Picture: Twitter/SpokespersonMoD



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