Debris of sunk cargo vessel caused marine disaster in Sri Lanka: Indian Navy

Indian Navy informed Sri Lanka that it has identified 54 underwater debris and a ship-wreck in the vicinity of the ill-fated MV X-Press Pearl ship which caused the worse-ever man-made marine disaster in the sea off the island nation.

A comprehensive survey report done by the Indian Navy was handed over to the Sri Lankan government on Friday. On the request of Sri Lanka on June 23 India had deployed the Hydrographic Survey Ship of Indian Navy, ‘INS Sarvekshak’ in the Indian Ocean where the Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, other chemicals and cosmetics was burnt and later sunk.

Since the disaster hundreds of dead turtles, dolphins and whales were washing ashore along the Western and Northern Sri Lankan seas. Criminal investigation started against the ship owners and the Attorney General on Wednesday informed courts that 176 turtles, 20 dolphins and four whales were so far killed due to toxins release from the ship. The environmentalists have complained to the Supreme Court, country’s apex court for violating the rights of Sri Lankans with extensive damages caused to the sea and the marine life.

On May 20, a fire had erupted at the ship which was docked at Colombo harbour and on June 2 it was sunk as a salvage crew attempted to tow it away from the coast.

“For weeks the sea area was banned for fishermen and other maritime activities and Sri Lankan authorities had postponed the underwater inspection due to rough weather. The joint survey operation was coordinated between Indian Navy, Sri Lanka Navy and National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA),” Indian High Commission in Colombo stated adding that the survey data would be invaluable in issuing advisories to the mariners and fishermen which would later assist in the removal of debris by the Savior to achieve safety of navigation.

At an official event where Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay handed over the Fairsheet of the survey to Sri Lankan government, Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda thanked the Indian Government and the Indian Navy for the prompt response of the closest historical neighbour and acknowledged India’s vision of Safety and Growth for All In the Region (SAGAR) through this gesture.

High Commissioner Baglay highlighted that India and Sri Lanka have cooperated on many occasions for mitigation of maritime disasters. The High Commissioner expressed pride in India’s assistance in restoring the livelihood of the Sri Lankan fishermen along the western coast.

“INS Sarvekshak progressed 807 miles of Side Scan Sonar survey utilising integral sensors and two survey boats in adverse weather conditions, which could have otherwise been delayed to post Monsoon in October due to rough seas. The ship’s team worked overnight to process gigabytes of data collected during the day, to meet the timelines,” the Indian High Commission stated.

It also noted that the continued assistance to Sri Lanka in the recent maritime incidents has showcased India’s ‘Neighborhood First’ policy through swift and timely support in mitigating various calamities in the Indian Ocean Region.

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