THE containership X-Press Pearl caught fire while at anchor off the Port of Colombo on 20 May.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority has reported that, in co-ordination with other organisations, it is still working to contain the fire onboard the vessel.

Reports indicate that until 25 May, the fire was largely under control. But on Tuesday, there was reportedly an explosion onboard and the fire spread. The crew of 25 have all been evacuated.

The Sri Lankan Coast Guard said Indian Coast Guard ships Vajra and Vaibhav have been deployed to fight the fire.

X-Press Feeders, which operates the ship, reported that today there are three firefighting tugs, helicopters, as well as the Indian Coastguard, and the Sri Lankan navy at the scene.

X-Press Pearl is located around 9.5 nautical miles north-west of the Port of Colombo, it departed from the port of Hazira in India on 15 May.

Sri Lankan minister of ports and shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena addressed the media after inspecting the situation at the Colombo Port’s Pilot Station on Tuesday.

“The Sri Lanka Ports Authority and all other agencies are working together to overcome this challenge. We are trying our best to extinguish the fire as the fire broke out again due to the continuous reaction of the chemical materials in the containers and adverse weather,” he said.

“In view of the prevailing situation, all crew of the ship have been evacuated and kept in safe places in accordance with the health regulations enforced in the country. We have made plans to carry out future activities in a manner that does not harm the country’s seas and marine environment.”


A statement from X-Press Feeders said salvage experts have been flown in from Europe. They are working with local authorities in efforts to save the vessel and its cargo despite adverse weather connected to the onset of the south-west monsoons.

The company said two crew members had received leg injuries during their evacuation from the ship on Tuesday, and they remain in stable condition.

Image: Indian Coast Guard

“One of the seafarers has since tested positive to Covid-19 and has been transferred to a special facility in a military hospital for further treatment, he remains asymptomatic,” the company said.

“The other 23 crew members are in a Colombo quarantine facility and are in good health. The crew members are in contact with their families and X-Press Feeders will continue to liaise with customers about their cargo.”