No risk of oil spill | Daily News


Oil tanker blaze contained – Indian Coast Guard:

No risk of oil spill

MEPA prepared to avert harmful impact of any oil spill:
Twenty two crew members rescued, one death confirmed:
Indian and Sri Lankan vessels engaged in  pumping water to cool the hull of the ill-fated New Diamond oil tanker which is ablaze 22  nautical miles off the Angamankanda  Point East of Sri Lanka.  Picture courtesy SLAF Media
Indian and Sri Lankan vessels engaged in pumping water to cool the hull of the ill-fated New Diamond oil tanker which is ablaze 22 nautical miles off the Angamankanda Point East of Sri Lanka. Picture courtesy SLAF Media

The fire raging in the VLCC tanker MT New Diamond was successfully doused last night, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) announced.

“Fire onboard MT New Diamond brought under control post massive firefighting effort by ICG, Sri Lanka Ships and planes,” the ICG tweeted. It added that the tug ALP Winger, despatched to the scene by the ship’s owning company, commenced towing the stricken VLCC vessel to prevent its drifting to shallow waters.

Military authorities had earlier expressed confidence that the fire could be brought under control. As of now there was no threat of a possible oil spill, they said.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Navy has rescued 22 of the 23 crew members aboard the oil tanker. However, information from the ship’s crew confirms that a Filipino seaman onboard had died in the boiler explosion which probably led to the fire, authorities said.

“We are very confident we are in a position to curtail the fire that erupted after an explosion of a boiler in the main engine room of MT New Diamond, a Panama flagged oil tanker sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangaman Kanda Point east of Sri Lankan seas on Thursday (3),” Director General (Operations) of Sri Lanka Navy, Rear Admiral Y.N. Jayarathna said.

He made this observation at a media briefing held yesterday at the Government Information Department.

“We have identified the worst case scenario and we are getting ready for that. But, we hope that will never happen,” he said.

Responding to a query by a journalist with regard to an Indian news report which reported that cracks had been observed in the ship, the DG said that the Executive Officer

of the Indian Coast Guard Vessel reported to his headquarters that he observed this fact. “He has reported a two-metre crack in the port quarter of the ship and the same report has come to us. These cracks are caused by the intense heat. When there is intense heat in one place for quite a long time naturally the steel plates get deformed. It’s natural. But it doesn’t mean that the ship is breaking apart and an oil spill is about to occur.

“These cracks are very important to analyze the ship including the hull condition, heat condition and what type of heat is generated inside the ship,” he added.

Chief of Defence Staff and Army Commander Lt. Gen. Shavendra Silva said the tanker which was initially located about 38 nautical miles off the coast of Sri Lanka, had floated about 22 nautical miles off the Eastern coast of Sri Lanka and is now floating towards the south and so far there is no risk of any oil spill.

“We believe that we are capable and nothing is impossible. We are trying our best to protect our people and marine resources,” he said.Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Chairperson Dharshani Lahandapura said that with the assistance of 15 other institutions, MEPA is prepared to avert any harmful impact of any oil spill.

“We have divided this particular incident into two parts and the first part is that we are quite confident that the Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard who are currently working together to control the fire would be able to prevent oil spills. If not then there will be a severe threat to our marine environment if any kind of oil leakage occurs.

“In the case of an oil spill, 270,000 metric tonnes of oil could mix into Sri Lanka waters, which would be a massive environmental disaster - the capabilities and resources of Sri Lanka to address such a situation are very low. As the national authority which is responsible to handle such kind of situation we are developing a comprehensive plan with the assistance of Disaster Management Centre, Sri Lanka Navy, Port Authority and many other organizations to combat any kind of oil spill. This will be one of the biggest environmental disasters that would happen in the world,” she further added. It was just a couple of weeks ago that a large-scale oil spill occurred off the coast of Mauritius.

She further said that the fishing community will be informed to stay at least five nautical miles away from the vessel as the fire could emit harmful gases.

“We have very minimum resources at the moment. The country alone cannot face any such disastrous situation of an oil spill. So we have already taken measures to seek local, regional as well as international support to mitigate the damage of any oil spill.

If an oil spill occurs, we will definitely have to take legal action against the connected parties. We have already sought the Attorney General’s advice on that. Since we are part of civil liability convention there is a possibility for us to claim the insurance for any loss occurring to Sri Lanka directly or indirectly. We are also in the process of preparing for legal action based on instructions of the Attorney General, in case of a massive oil spill,” she added.

According to Sri Lanka Navy sources, a Sri Lanka Air Force MI 17 helicopter carried out several aerial operations. Meanwhile, a Beechcraft plane is conducting periodic air surveillance and a Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard also monitored the unfolding situation from the air.

Further, Sri Lanka Navy Ships Sayura, Sindurala and Ranarisi with two Fast Attack Craft have been deployed in this disaster management operation. The Indian Coast Guard Ship “Shaurya” which arrived at the location of the distressed oil tanker, joined hands with the Sri Lanka Navy Ship ‘Sindurala’ in carrying out the cooling effect from both sides of the ship in distress. The mission was also augmented by two tugs ‘Rawana’ and ‘Wasamba’.

The mission was also joined by the ALP ‘Winger’ another tug provided by the foreign company that owns the ill-fated ship. Apart from that, the Indian Navy Ship (INS) ‘Sahyadri’ joined the disaster management operation and two other Indian Coast Guard ships were scheduled to join the operation by yesterday (4) afternoon. The two Russian ships that took part in the disaster relief operation left the scene of action after providing necessary support, Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, 21 crew members of the distressed oil tanker including the 19 persons who were initially retrieved by the MV Helen were taken aboard SLN ships and have been safely isolated adhering to health guidelines. The health condition of the third engineering officer of the ship who was admitted to the Kalmunai Hospital after sustaining injuries is also stable. The fire on the ship has so far had no effect on the 270,000 metric tons of crude oil stored there and necessary steps are being taken to prevent the fire from spreading to those crude oil storage facilities. Meanwhile, there is still no risk of the ship leaking oil into the ocean due to the unfortunate turn of events. However, Sri Lanka Navy, the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Marine Environment Protection Authority and other stakeholders are geared up to take necessary steps to mitigate and manage the risk of a possible oil spill in future due to this disaster.


PM instructs MEPA to take adequate preventive measures

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) authorities to take all possible effort to prevent any damage to the marine environment caused by the MT New Diamond oil tanker.

According to a media release issued yesterday evening by the Prime Minister’s office, the MEPA is running under the purview of the Urban Development and Housing Ministry.

As the subject minister, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has given these instructions and the MEPA is now working together with 15 other institutions to face any disastrous situation.

The Department of Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management, Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Airforce, Ports Authority, Environment Authority, Fisheries Department, Disaster Management Centre, Meteorology Department, Wildlife Department, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and several other institutions are working with the MEPA to manage the issue.


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