Continuing the firefighting efforts to douse the fire onboard MV X-Press Pearl off Colombo, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ships ‘Vaibhav’ and ‘Vajra’ are incessantly spraying foam solution/sea water through heavy duty External Fire Fighting system capable of discharging water at the rate of 600 litre per minute. Rough seas and strong winds continue to prevail in the area posing difficulties to firefighting units. The ICG ships are continuously making multiple runs across the length of the ship while going close enough to effectively spray foam/water and at the same time keeping clear of the hanging burned and mangled containers which are at the risk of falling overboard.
The persistent round-the-clock fire-fighting efforts of ICG ships in coordination with tugs deployed by Sri Lanka has prevented the fire from re-spreading towards vessel’s forward part thereby protecting anchor-chain cable arrangement from parting due to weakening from extreme heat. The fire presently appears to have considerably reduced as white fumes indicating lack of available combustible material are seen emanating from the mid region of the ship. However, flames are still visible in the aft section of the ship ahead of its superstructure.
Aerial assessment of the area carried out by ICG Dornier aircraft on May 28, 2021 revealed no oil spill. Despite the major fire that has been raging onboard MV X-Press Pearl since May 25, 2021, the hull of the ship is still intact which may be attributed to its double hulled structure and continuous fire-fighting efforts. No appreciable change in the draught of the ship has been noticed.
In addition to 1,486 containers of chemicals and other hazardous IMDG code goods, the vessel is also carrying 322 MT fuel. To further augment the firefighting operation and respond to the possible oil spill from vessel, ICG ship Samudra Prahari, a specialised Pollution Response vessel, is reaching at the scene of incident by May 29, 2021, ex-Mumbai.
ICG formations at Kochi, Chennai and Tuticorin remain standby for immediate assistance if any, towards Pollution Response. Continuous coordination is being maintained with Sri Lankan Coast Guard, Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and other Sri Lankan authorities for augmenting the overall response operations towards containing the fire.
ICG’s assistance towards dousing is in consonance with the Neighbourhood First policy of Government of India which entails responding to the maritime challenges to promote regional prosperity, safety and sustainable growth in the Indian Ocean Region.