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CEO of vessel operator apologizes for impact of sunken container ship off Sri Lanka coast

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While Sri Lanka braces itself for a possible oil spill from a sunken Singapore-registered container ship, the vessel operator’s chief executive on Thursday expressed “deep regrets and apologies” for the impact that the incident has caused on livelihoods and the environment.

The container ship X-Press Pearl was carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, when it caught fire on May 20 off the west coast of Sri Lanka. It burned for 13 days before the blaze was finally put out on Tuesday.

In an interview with CNA on Thursday, vessel operator X-Press Feeders’ CEO Shmuel Yoskovitz said his company has enlisted environmental experts, such as the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation, to monitor the situation.

It has also started engaging and working with the Sri Lankan authorities, and contributed “some heavy equipment” to help with the clean-up of beaches.

“I’d like to express my deep regrets and apologies to the Sri Lankan people for the harm this incident has caused to the livelihood and to the environment of Sri Lanka,” Mr Yoskovitz said.

Mr Yoskovitz told CNA that the aft portion of the container ship has sunk and is “now laying on the seabed at (a depth of) about 21m”. The ship’s forward section is also “slowly sinking”.

“To assess the real situation, we will need to wait for the wreck to settle on the seabed and then see what really can be done,” he said.

“Currently what the salvors are doing, they are monitoring the wreck and making sure that any debris or god forbid, the oil spill will be detected quickly and handled accordingly.”

He added that as of 5pm on Thursday, “there has been no oil pollution detected”.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst marine ecological disaster. Millions of plastic pellets from the ship’s containers have fouled the country’s beaches and fishing waters, forcing a fishing ban and a major clean-up involving thousands of soldiers.

The Sri Lankan government has said it would seek compensation for the incident.

Asked how much that could amount to, Mr Yoskovitz said: “This is now being assessed but we need to bear in mind that this will be a long process … first of all, to see when this incident will be over and then to assess the total damages.”

It is “very hard” to estimate any cost or damages at the moment, he added.

“But we are insured. The direct financial burden on X-Press (Feeders) will be very limited,” he said.

Sri Lankan officials have said they suspect the fire was caused by a nitric acid leak, which the ship’s crew had been aware of since at least three weeks ago.

Mr Yoskovitz confirmed that the crew had been aware of the leak, but said they were denied permission by both Qatar and India authorities to unload the leaking container before the fire broke out. 

Providing a timeline of events, he said the container was first loaded on the ship on May 10 at the Jebel Ali port in Dubai.

“It was discovered leaking while alongside Hamad, which is a port in Qatar. When it was detected, we asked to discharge it. The port authorities did not allow it since they had no manpower or the equipment readily available to discharge,” he said.

“Afterwards, the vessel sailed into Hazira, a port in India, where we requested the Hazira port to allow us to discharge the container. Again it was rejected, more or less for the same reasons as it was in Hamad,” he said.

The X-Press Pearl then arrived in Sri Lankan waters on May 19. Smoke was detected the next morning.

“Until that time, there was only leakage from one container, which was handled and controlled by the crew,” Mr Yoskovitz told CNA.

Asked if the incident could have been avoided if the leaking container was allowed to be discharged at the ports in Qatar and India, he replied that “it is very hard to assess what caused the fire”.

While the leak from one container was “the most probable cause”, he stressed that the company is “not 100 per cent sure”.

“There are many incidents like that at sea. Sometimes, terminals and ports are able to help, and sometimes not,” the chief executive added.

He said that the ship’s crew attended to the leak in accordance with guidelines from the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Convention.

Mr Yoskovitz was then asked how inadequate packaging of chemical contents could cause such fires, and if this is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed.

He said that shipping companies have been trying to raise awareness about this issue for the past few years and there have been “countless incidents of fires”.

“Not to talk about leaks which happened probably on a weekly (basis) which we don’t hear, thank god, because a catastrophe has not happened,” said the chief executive officer.

“You need to remember that we load containers that are signed and sealed and we don’t open them. We are dependent on the declaration and the professionality of our shippers that they will pack the containers correctly and that they will declare them correctly,” he added.

Source: Channel News Asia (CNA)

 

 



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Supreme Court Judge, President of the Appeal Court, Appeal Court Justice took oath before President

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(pic PMD)

Justice K. P. Fernando, President of the Court of Appeal took oath as a Supreme Court Judge before President Ranil Wickremesinghe this morning (06) at the President’s House in Fort.

Court of Appeal Justice Mr. Nissanka Bandula Karunaratne took oath as the President of the Court of Appeal while High Court Judge M.A.R. Marikkar was also sworn in as a Judge of the Court of Appeal before President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Minister of Justice Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, Secretary to the President Mr. Saman Ekanayake, Commanders of the Tri Forces and other officials attended this event.

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Strong earthquake hits south-eastern Turkey near Syria border

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BBC reported that a powerful earthquake has hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude tremor struck at 04:17 local time (01:17 GMT) at a depth of 17.9km (11 miles) near the city of Gaziantep.

The quake was felt in the capital Ankara and other Turkish cities, and also across the region.

Reports are coming in that several buildings have collapsed, and a number of people may be trapped.

A BBC Turkish correspondent in Diyarbakir reports that a shopping mall in the city collapsed.

Rushdi Abualouf, a BBC producer in the Gaza Strip, said there was about 45 seconds of shaking in the house he was staying in.

Turkish seismologists estimated the strength of the quake to be 7.4 magnitude.

They said that a second tremor hit the region just minutes later.

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13 A: Political parties miss Ranil’s Feb. 04 deadline for submitting their proposals

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Udaya compares constitutional threat with Indonesian crisis in late ’90s

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government hasn’t received proposals from political parties regarding President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s decision to implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution fully.

President Wickremesinghe, on January 26, requested party leaders to furnish their suggestions, if any, by Feb. 04 as he intended to brief Parliament on Feb. 08 as regards the implementation of land and police powers.

Political parties, represented in Parliament, had not responded to President Wickremesinghe’s request so far, authoritative sources told The Island. Responding to another query, sources said that the President’s Office hadn’t received proposals in support of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration or against it.

Several political parties, including the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) spurned the President’s invitation.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in Nov. 1987, during Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15th, 2023, President Wickremesinghe warned party leaders on January 26 he would go ahead with plans unless the parliament repealed it. Both declarations were made in the presence of Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.

Sources noted that though several political parties declared opposition and some issued statements supportive of the President’s move, they haven’t submitted proposals in writing.

President Wickremesinghe prorogued Parliament, on January 27, the day after setting Feb. 04 as the deadline for political parties to submit proposals. The new session of Parliament begins on Feb. 08.Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) General Secretary, Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, told The Island that the decision to fully implement the controversial amendment shouldn’t be taken hastily.

“We are certainly not opposed to the devolution of power. However, we cannot under any circumstances support an agenda that may cause chaos,” National List MP said.

The Attorney-at-Law said so when The Island asked him whether the ruling party submitted its proposals to President Wickremesinghe.The lawmaker said that there was no requirement to do so as he on behalf of the SLPP explained to the January 26 meeting chaired by President Wickremesinghe why 13th Amendment shouldn’t be fully implemented without examining the ground situation.

“Seven past Presidents didn’t do that. Why didn’t they do so? We’ll have to study why they refrained from granting police and land powers in spite of them being part of that Amendment. If the reasons that compelled them not to do so no longer exist, we can consider the proposals,” lawmaker Kariyawasam said.

Declaring SLPP’s commitment to maximum possible devolution, MP Kariyawasam warned of dire consequences if decisions were made on the basis of language and religion.The SLPP that secured 145 seats at the last general election remains the largest party in parliament though over two dozen MPs quit the government group.

MP Kariyawasam emphasized that they couldn’t act recklessly on the issue at hand.Those who quit the SLPP parliamentary group, too, have strongly opposed the full implementation of the 13th Amendment. Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila, MP, compared the developing crisis here with Western project that divided Indonesia in the late 90s.Attorney-at-Law Gammanpila explained how Western countries exploited the economic crisis in Indonesia to compel Jakarta to grant independence to East Timor.

Addressing a public rally at Dehiwela on Feb. 02  in support of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya contesting March 09 Local Government polls, former Power and Energy Minister said that the challenge faced by Sri Lanka owing to the continuing balance of payments and debt crises was very much similar to the circumstances leading to East Timor independence.

The 13th Amendment would split Sri Lanka on ethnic lines, the Colombo District MP warned.The MP recalled how external powers created an environment that compelled Indonesian President Suharto to resign in May 1998 to pave the way for Megawati Setiawati Sukarnoputri to win the next presidential election. The MP said that Sukarnoputri granted independence to East Timor.

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