Sri Lanka arrests captain of burnt container ship

COLOMBO • Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) yesterday arrested the captain of the X-Press Pearl container ship which caught fire on the outskirts of Colombo Port on May 20.

Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said the captain was arrested at a hotel in the capital Colombo, where he and other crew members were held, and will be brought before a local high court.

Mr Rohana said the CID had earlier recorded statements from the captain and several others, including the chief engineer of the vessel, over the incident.

The X-Press Pearl is registered under the flag of Singapore and was carrying 1,486 containers with 25 tonnes of nitric acid and several other chemicals as well as cosmetics when it left the port of Hazira in India on May 15.

The vessel sent out a distress call while sailing close to the Colombo Port on May 20, and soon caught fire. The Sri Lankan navy dispatched vessels to bring the blaze under control.

The country's Marine Environment Protection Authority said that the burning of the vessel had caused a massive environmental disaster as beaches from the south coast to the west coast were damaged by debris washed ashore.

Over the weekend, the authority removed about 1,000 tonnes of waste from Sri Lankan beaches, local media reported.

Minister of Ports and Shipping Rohitha Abeygunawardena told the local News 1st that, following talks with the Attorney-General and the Justice Minister, a claim of US$40 million (S$53 million) was made for the damage caused by the X-Press Pearl.

He said this was a preliminary claim and, in the future, that figure would increase to a much larger amount.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2021, with the headline 'Sri Lanka arrests captain of burnt container ship'. Subscribe