On June 2, a large cargo ship loaded with chemical containers sank on Sri Lanka’s West Coast. The ship was blazing in the fire for almost two weeks. Fears and tensions are building up among the people of Sri Lanka and scientists studying the repercussions.
The coastline has already been covered with a massive amount of plastic pellets by the vessel. This is a severe threat to the fishing industry as the incident may spill oil on the water.
The government has already restricted fishing in a radius of 50 miles from the coast where the incident happened. Fishing is one of the most important industries in the economy of Sri Lanka. To clear the beaches and normalize the situation, authorities have already deployed many soldiers. Additionally, they have warned the residents to maintain distance from the wastages as they can contain harmful chemicals.
On May 20, Singaporean cargo ship X-Press Pearl anchored opposite Pamunugama Beach due to the outbreak of the fire. The beach locates in the north of Colombo.
From then, many plastic beads like bits were washing up from the burnt ship. The incident made this vibrant tropical beach into the most horrific scene of Sri Lanka’s marine disaster.
Marine biologist expresses shock on cargo ship mishap
Asha de Vos, aged 41, a marine biologist, said that it was a shock for her to see the condition of the beach. She went to the beach on Wednesday and gave her statement. She said that the incident feels like a wall made of bricks has hit her.
According to her statement, plastic waste has replaced the scenic beauty of trees and sand. She is an executive director of Oceanswell. The marine research and education organization is based in Colombo.
Vos said that she spent her life taking care of and protecting the oceans and the beaches of Sri Lanka. She added that the incident is heartbreaking for her. She said that she has talked with a soldier who is clearing the beach. According to the soldier, they clean the beach and take away about 3000 bags of plastic pellets per day. De Vos said that she witnessed that more plastic is coming to the beach with the waves.
Sri Lanka coastlines make it a major tourists’ hub
Sri Lanka has become a famous tourist spot in the last few years. The beautiful coastlines and scenic beauties have made the country attractive. Since the civil war ended n 2009, the country saw a boom in tourism due to its beautiful coastline. But in recent years, the tourism industry has been affected in a very negative way. The reasons behind it are the global crisis of COVID-19 and the Easter terrorist attack in 2019.
Kanchana Wijesekera, Minister of Fisheries, tweeted about the emergency prevention of the coastline and the surrounding areas taken for the possible damage caused by the oil leaking issue.
Capt. Indika Silva, a navy spokesperson, said that towing the ship from the water was unsuccessful. The rear part of the ship has sunk on the water and is lying on the seafloor, and the bow part of the ship is still floating in the water. Therefore the towing had to stop.
He also added that the primary concern of the authorities is the ship’s oil leaking issue. However, there is no such report present, and that is positive news. But the concerned personnel are tense about the possible oil slicking issue. He also said that the navy is ready to help with all the necessary equipment in any circumstances.
University of Western Australia’s professor of coastal oceanography named Charitha Pattiaratchi stated the incident as the worst disaster on the environment of Sri Lanka over a phone call from Perth, Australia. He said that he is also worried about the possible oil spilling issue.
Updated facts on cargo ship
- The owners and operators of the ship, X-Press Feeders, stated that moving the ship away from the coastal line to the deeper water has failed.
- The ship was carrying 1,486 containers loaded with chemicals and cosmetics, including 25 tons of nitric acid.
- The owners of the ship said that it was carrying almost 300 tons of fuel. Also, there are some doubts about the chemicals’ nature that the ship was carrying.
- After the fire was extinguished, the containers fell on the water, and the substances started spilling into the sea.
- The Fisheries Minister tweeted that they will use the skimmers and booms if oil spills from the ship on late Wednesday. He also stated that there are specific plans for the beach cleanup too.
The local authorities take cleaning process resolutions
On Tuesday, the Marine Environment Protection Authority posted on their Facebook that six cleanup programs at 14 locations have been conducted. The owners also said that the plastics are being cleared from the shoreline with the help of some local authorities.
Pattiaratchi stated that plastic pellets are one of the significant elements of the disaster of the worldwide oceans. He said more than 230,000 tons of plastic enter the oceans every single year. His estimations say that Sri Lanka can migrate nearly 3 billion spills into the ocean’s other parts.
He expects that in the next 40 to 50 days, the plastic will go to Indonesia and Maldives. The man added that the plastic pellets are not easy to clean, and these plastics will stay for some generations in the oceans of Sri Lanka. He also said that these plastics are non-toxic for humans, but marine life will be affected negatively.
The country’s TV channels and the news media showed the unfortunate death of fishes and turtles, and other marine creatures on the seashores.
De Vos said that there is already a big problem with the plastic issue. If the oil starts to spill, there would be an even bigger problem to curb. The cleanup process will be more complex.
She also hoped that these problems would be solved very soon and the oil spill will not happen.