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S’pore vessel operator’s CEO admits its crew knew of acid leak for 3 weeks

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The crew of the Singapore-flagged MV X-Press Pearl had been aware of the nitric acid leak at least three weeks before the disaster, but they had been denied permission by authorities in both Qatar and India to unload the leaking container before the fire broke out, Shmuel Yoskovitz CEO of X-Press Feeders’, the vessel operator said on Thursday in an interview with Channel News Asia.  

Providing a timeline of events, Yoskovitz said the container had first been 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. 

Yoskovitz said that afterwards the vessel sailed into Hazira, a port in India, where they requested the port to allow them 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,” Yoskovitz said. 

When a Channel News Asia anchor asked if the incident could have been avoided if the leaking container was allowed to be discharged at the ports in Qatar and India, Yoskovitz 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. 

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.

 

 



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Debt-ridden CEB goes ahead with shocking pay hike amidst pandemic

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Workers offered 25% increase this year…12% annually over three-year period
 

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days after the Presidential Secretariat stated that the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) owed two state banks––Bank of Ceylon and the People’s Bank, a staggering Rs 85 bn, the cash-strapped enterprise announced an annual 12 percent salary increase to its employees.

Vijitha Herath, Chairman, of the CEB, yesterday (15) said that the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement for 2021-2023 period would enable the workers to receive 25 per cent in the first year whereas annually it would be 12 percent over a period of three years.

The ministry said that in spite of severe difficulties caused by the rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the salary increment was granted in response to workers’ request.

Declaring that the Cabinet and the Board of Directors of the CEB had approved the salary increase, the ministry has sought cooperation of the CEB trade unions to finalise the collective agreement.

The ministry claimed that CEB workers had been granted a spate of privileges not given to other state sector employees hence consensus on collective agreement was expected soon.

The Presidential Secretariat on Sunday explained that one reason for the banking sector crisis was the failure on the part of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the CEB to settle Rs 562 bn and Rs 85 bn, respectively.

The Presidential Secretariat issued the statement in the wake of SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, triggering a political storm by demanding Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila’s immediate resignation over recent increase in fuel prices.

The CEB Chairman also claimed that they had been able to bring down the accumulated losses to Rs 56 bn last year from Rs 97 bn in the previous year.

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Indian fishers riled by SL moves to create new fish breeding grounds

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By Dinasena Ratugamage

 

Fishermen from Rameswaran will hold a protest today (16) against Sri Lanka’s decision to submerge 20 old buses in the seas off Jaffna to create breeding grounds for fish.

Members of 17 fisheries associations in Tamil Nadu and Rameswaran claim that this will affect their yield as more fish will be attracted to the breeding grounds created by submerged buses.

The Ministry said that sinking those buses was nothing new and that such buses provided a hard surface for invertebrates to live on, some of which could not live on the sand bottom that is naturally there.

“Some fish are not fast swimmers, so they need a structure to provide both food and shelter; they wouldn’t, for example, be able to outswim a shark, but they could duck into the shelter instead,” a Sri Lankan fisheries association representative said.

However N. Devadas, the head of the Indian fishermen’s association in Rameswaram, said that they would also hand over a petition against that decision to the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka has been submerging old SLTB buses in the deep sea for many years as a part of the Deep Sea Fish Development Project.

 

 

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Three more weeks needed to see drop in COVID deaths – Dr. Fernandopulle

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It would take at least three more weeks to see a drop in COVID-19 related deaths in the country, Minister of COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudharshini Fernandopulle said yesterday.

There had been a drop in the number of cases reported already, she said.

“The number of patients is coming down but there has been an increase in deaths. However, this too will come down.

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