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Super tanker fire: Damage caused to marine environment estimated at Rs 4 billion

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By Ifham Nizam

In addition to Rs. 340 million sought by the Sri Lankan government for operations undertaken by its Air Force and Navy to prevent a far greater marine catastrophe, the country will seek an estimated Rs. 4 billion for the damages caused to the marine environment.  

The Insurance Company or the owners of the New Diamond Crude Oil Tanker have to pay some Rs. 4 billion as damages caused to the environment, a senior official of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) yesterday said.

MEPA General Manager, Dr. Terney Pradeep Kumara told The Island that the process would take between one and two weeks.

He said that ship owners/insurer also had to pay Rs. 15 million for concealing information about environmental damage.

He said that Attorney General Dappula de Livera had submitted an interim claim of Rs. 340 Million to the counsel representing the owners of the stricken super tanker MT New Diamond.

According to MEPA Chairperson Darshani Lahandapura, the incident had affected marine life in Sri Lankan waters.

Laboratory tests proved there was an oil leak into the ocean, in addition to observation reports, said the MEPA Chief adding the team of experts reported the area in which the incident took place is home to turtles, Manta Rays as well as Dolphins.

“Preparing the Environment Impact Assessment report is a complex task,” said Lahandapura, noting dead marine life could possibly reach the shores of other nations.

The Government Analyst’s Department report confirmed that the oil which leaked into the ocean was the fuel used by the Crude Oil Tanker to power its engines.

According to State Counsel Nishara Jayaratne, the Coordinating Officer to the Attorney General the documented claim for costs incurred by Sri Lanka Navy, Air Force, Ports Authority, Colombo Dockyard PLC, Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) & Coast Conservation Department in providing assistance to douse and contain the fire as well as for related matters had been submitted to the MT New Diamond lawyers.

Rs. 340 Million was estimated as the expenses incurred until the 15th of September, said State Counsel Jayaratne.

The MT New Diamond tanker was transporting 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil from the port of Meena Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when a fire broke out in its engine room, killing a crew member and causing serious burn injuries to its engineer in the eastern seas of Sri Lanka on September 3, 2020.

The ship was sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point, Ampara when it caught fire with an explosion in a boiler in the ship’s main engine room.

The distressed oil tanker in eastern seas was manned by 23 crew members including five Greeks and 18 Philippine nationals.

It was also reported that 1,700 metric tonnes of diesel/furnace oil required for the use of the tanker were also stored onboard.

MT New Diamond is a 20-year old crude oil tanker that is 333 metres long and 60 metres wide, and sailed with a Japanese certificate. It is registered in Panama.



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Full implementation of 13A: NFF vows to torpedo Ranil’s move, asks Dinesh, Mahinda to disclose their stance

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The National Freedom Front (NFF), a constituent member of Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya (NJS), has declared that it would oppose President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s bid to fully implement the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The patriotic people were ready to defeat such plans, even at the expense of their lives, the party has vowed.

The breakaway JVP faction consists of six MPs, including former minister Wimal Weerawansa. The NJS is contesting the Local Government polls, scheduled for March 09, under the ‘Helicopter’ symbol.

NFF spokesperson, MP Jayantha Samaraweera, on Monday (30), told the media that his party was ready to lead a campaign against the UNP leader’s move to do away with constitutional safeguards meant to ensure Sri Lanka’s unitary status. The Lawmaker addressed the media at the NFF main office, at Pitakotte.

Having declared his intention to fully implement the controversial constitutional amendment at the Thai Pongal celebrations, in Jaffna, on January 15, President Wickremesinghe reiterated his commitment to the Eelam project during the party leaders’ meeting at the Presidential Secretariat, the former State Minister said.

Lawmaker Samaraweera asked Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had flanked President Wickremesinghe, at the party leaders’ meeting, to disclose their stand on 13th Amendment.

The Nidahas Janatha Sandhanaya, consisting of NFF, Democratic Left Front, Communist Party, Lanka Samasamaja Pakshaya, Pivuthuru Hela Urumaya, Vijayadharani Jathika Sabhawa, Yuthukama, Sri Lanka Freedom Party, Nidahasa Janatha Sabhawa, Jana Jaya Peramuna, Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya and Nidahas Janatha Peramuna, has yet to disclose its position on this issue.

MP Samaraweera attacked the President, close on the heels of NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, who is also the Chairman of the Uththara Lanka Sabhagaya (ULS), questioning the legitimacy of the move. Lawmaker Weerawansa addressed this issue at a meeting held at the BMICH, on January 26, to discuss ways and means to thwart the move to privatize the CEB.

The ULS consisting of seven political parties, and groups, is aligned with the NJS.

Referring to the circumstances UNP leader Wickremesinghe re-entered Parliament, through the National List, nearly a year after the last General Election, former Minister Weerawansa emphasized the President didn’t have a mandate to fully implement the 13th Amendment. How could the UNP leader abolish Sri Lanka’s unitary status, having received an opportunity to complete Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s remainder of five-year term, won at the Nov. 2019 Presidential Election.

The MP challenged their erstwhile comrades, in the JVP, to state their position on the 13th Amendment. Alleging that the JVP had been conveniently silent on the issue at hand, MP Samaraweera asked whether the current leadership would take up Wickremesinghe’s challenge.

In addition to Weerawansa and Samaraweera, Yuthukama leader Gevindu Cumaratunga, MP, has declared opposition to the President’s move, at the party leaders’ meeting.

Of the SLPP parliamentary group, retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera is the only MP to publicly oppose Wickremesinghe’s proposal.

Political sources said that the NJS, as a group contesting the forthcoming LG polls, was yet to deliberate this issue and take a stand. They said that consensus was required without further delay as the President’s proposal would be a major issue at the forthcoming election.

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PHU, too, opposes land, police powers to PCs

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A lawyers’ group, aligned with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU), yesterday (31) said that President Ranil Wickremesinghe couldn’t unilaterally decide on the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Attorneys-at-Law Pasan Gunasekera and Bhupathi Kahathuduwa, in a statement issued, explained why police and land powers, in terms of the controversial amendment, shouldn’t be granted to Provincial Councils. Abolition of current constitutional safeguard would undermine Sri Lanka’s unitary status thereby paved the way for a new conflict.

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Bangladesh FM to deliver LK memorial lecture

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Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, will deliver the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture at Block 3, Jasmine Hall, BMICH, on February 03, at 6 pm.

The LTTE assassinated the then Foreign Minister, Kadirgamar, on Aug. 12, 2005.

FM Momen will deliver the annual lecture on the invitation of the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies.

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