THE containership X-Press Pearl continues to deteriorate after a fire broke out onboard on 20 May and continued to burn for weeks.

Video footage and images from the scene show incinerated containers on the ship and debris washing ashore in the area.

Reuters reports that tonnes of plastic pellets have polluted the fishing waters in the area. 

X-Press Pearl’s aft section is “sitting on the seabed at a depth of about 21 metres and the forward section continues to settle down slowly,” according to the vessel’s operator, X-Press Feeders. 

The vessel is located 9.5 nautical miles northwest of the Port of Colombo. A salvage crew tried to tow the vessel to deeper waters yesterday, but was unsuccessful. 

The company said as of 0700 local time Thursday there had been no reports of oil pollution, although it is reported that there is 350 tonnes of fuel oil onboard.

X-Press Feeders said salvors remain on the scene. They are supported by the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Coast Guard, who have oil spill response capabilities on standby. 

The Singapore-flagged ship caught fire on 20 May and had 1486 containers onboard. The ship was safely evacuated of all crew. It has been reported that the ship was carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid. 

X-Press Pearl on 3 June 2021; Image: Sri Lanka Air Force

The Sri Lanka Navy has dispatched a research vessel, the Samudrika, to assess the environmental impact of the incident. 

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said, as the flag state, it has been in constant communication with the Sri Lankan authorities, the ship operator and its classification society on efforts to stabilise the ship, put out the fire, and put in place measures to reduce the environmental impact. 

“Based on the latest update from the ship operator on 2 June, while the fire on board has been put out but the ship’s condition has deteriorated,” MPA said in a statement 

“MPA understands that the ship’s stern is now submerged, and the ship may be at risk of sinking.” 

MPA said the vessel was registered in Singapore in February of this year. It said it was delivered from the shipyard that same month with the full set of applicable class and statutory certificates. 

X-Press Pearl on 3 June 2021; Image: Sri Lanka Air Force