Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ships ‘Vaibhav’ and ‘Vajra’ continue to battle the fire onboard container ship MV X-Press Pearl off Colombo, Sri Lanka. Amidst rough seas and adverse weather conditions, the ICG ships, in a joint effort with vessels deployed by Sri Lanka, have carried out multiple runs along the length of the container vessel on both sides while spraying AFFF solution/sea water through the ship borne heavy-duty external fire-fighting system.
Containers stacked on both sides of the vessel are reported to be either partially or wholly burnt and are in danger of falling overboard in some locations. However, with deft manoeuvring, the ICG ships effectively sprayed the sea water/foam by reaching as close as 40-50 metres of the ship. Concerted and persistent firefighting by ICG ships have resulted in the fire appearing to have reduced in the fore and mid part of the distressed vessel, but continues in the aft part close to superstructure.
The ICG Dornier aircraft operating from Madurai undertook aerial reconnaissance of the area on May 27, 2021. No oil spill has been reported. ICG ship Samudra Prahari, a specialised Pollution Response (PR) vessel, has also been despatched in PR configuration to augment the firefighting efforts and respond to any oil spill.
The distressed vessel MV X-Press Pearl was carrying 1,486 containers with nitric acid and other hazardous IMDG code chemicals. The extreme fire, damage to containers and prevailing inclement weather has caused the vessel to tilt to one side resulting in falling of containers overboard. To augment the firefighting operations, about 4,500 litres of AFFF compound and 450 kg Dry Chemical Powder was handed over to Sri Lankan authorities by ICG ship Vajra on May 26, 2021.
ICG formations at Kochi, Chennai and Tuticorin are kept on standby for immediate assistance towards Pollution Response. Continuous coordination is being maintained with Sri Lankan Coast Guard and other Sri Lankan authorities for augmenting the overall response operations towards containing the fire.