Sri Lanka is looking for oil in the waters around the cargo ship that has sunk.
Officials in Sri Lanka said they have taken water samples to see if a fire-ravaged cargo ship slowly sinking off the coast is leaking oil.
The results of tests conducted by the Sri Lankan Marine Environment Protection Authority on Thursday are still awaiting, according to the country’s environment minister.
The tests were sparked by Planet Labs satellite photographs that showed a substance that could be oil in the water near the Singapore-flagged MV X-Press Pearl, which was destroyed by a fire 12 days before sinking last Thursday.
The ship’s cargo, which included 25 tonnes of nitric acid and other chemicals, was largely destroyed by the fire.
However, debris from the ship, including burned fibreglass and tons of plastic pellets, has already fouled neighboring beaches, and there are fears that a spill of residual chemicals and oil on the ship may kill marine life.
“A grey sheen has been noticed emanating from the vessel, and water samples are currently being tested,” the ship’s operator, X-Press Feeders, stated.
The satellite footage “may be deceiving,” claimed Nalaka Godahewa, state minister in charge of coast conservation, in a tweet, adding that both the Sri Lankan and Indian navy had certified to him that there was no big oil spill.
On May 20, the ship caught fire while anchored about 9.5 nautical miles north-west of Colombo, preparing to enter Sri Lanka’s main port.
The navy suspects the fire was started by the chemical payload it was carrying.
The fire raged for 12 days before finally being put out last week. The ship began sinking, and attempts to tow it into deeper seas were unsuccessful once the stern sunk to the seafloor.
The ship is partially submerged in 70-foot-deep water.
The skipper, chief engineer, and assistant engineer of the ship have been barred from leaving the country by a Colombo court.
The government has stated that it will pursue legal action against the ship’s owners in order to recover compensation.