Excerpt to media briefing on 09 Sep 2020 at 1500 hrs status quo of MT New Diamond
Damage control teams today (09th September 2020) successfully doused the fire on board MT New Diamond crude oil tanker. Three (03) member team from salvor boarded the fire-damaged ship for the first time today and carried out a preliminary investigations. Meanwhile, a team of experts from the Sri Lanka Navy and the Indian Coast Guard is scheduled to board the distressed ship to make an assessment for onward action. The team would deliver updates about the existing damages and safety condition of the ship in the time to come.
This morning, another fuel patch was spotted in the sea area where the ship is located and it was revealed that the recent fuel patch and the one noticed the previous day had been caused by leaks from the ship's fuel tanks. Following these developments, a Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard stationed at the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport was flown to the area where the fuel patch was observed and dispersants were airdropped to the sea area to minimize its impact on the marine environment. Photographs snapped by the Indian Coast Guard and Sri Lanka Air Force aircraft indicated that the fuel patch that was observed the day before is no longer visible and the one reported today is being dissolved gradually. Accordingly, the aircraft sprayed dispersant on fuel patches on two flights. The Dornier conducted 02 sorties and remains ready get off ground, in an emergency.
Technical analysis confirms the ship’s crude oil tanks are unhurt as of now and no reports of crude oil dripping from the stricken ship. To further substantiate this, a joint diving operation by a Sri Lanka Navy and Indian Coast Guard diving team is scheduled, once the prevailing rough sea condition recedes.
The ship is currently lying about 40-41 nautical miles off the shore. Meanwhile, the engine and pump rooms of the distressed vessel are flooded with approximately 80% of sea water surged in order to extinguish fire and stabling in trim by aft condition.
In the meantime, the Navy-transferred officials from the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and University of Ruhuna returned ashore with sea water samples collected from the site of the ship, for further examination.
More studies in to the condition of sea water are also currently underway at the laboratory unit of the Pollution Control Ship of the Indian Coast Guard Ship in the vicinity.
Further, the national authority in determining the compensation for the Sri Lankan Government and other stakeholders rests on the shoulders of the Director General Merchant Shipping and Maritime Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA). Sri Lanka Navy to furnish the cost involving the mission once the operation put the final seal on.
The announcements from the experts who boarded the ship are yet to be received and the possible occurrences aboard distressed ship could only be determined based on such particulars. Once the safety procedures are complete, the responsibility of the ship rests with the ship's owner and its salvation firm.
On the other hand, Sri Lanka is purely playing the role of a coastal state in conformity with international conventions. Further, the fire-engulfed ship needs the green light of the Sri Lankan authority for it to be escorted to a port in Sri Lanka. The Navy acts as the law enforcement agency of the national authority and would make necessary arrangements to handle proceedings at sea.
The Indian Coast Guard rendered a steadfast support for the entire damage control operation, without failing to send its first platform to augment the mission on the very first day. The discussion between top brass of Sri Lanka Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne and the Director General Indian Coast Guard resulted in receipt of a number of ships and Dornier aircraft from Indian Coast Guard to step-up the mission.
The collaborative effort was also joined by the Indian Navy deploying one of its mission-capable war ship. It is in this backdrop, Sri Lanka Navy is ever so grateful to the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy for deploying their priced-possessions for this damage control mission. Bearing testimony to the long standing naval relationships, two Russian warships too boosted firefighting efforts at its initial phase.
Blessed with good neighbours in the region and across the globe, Sri Lanka received all out assistance in terms of modern facilities to avert one of the biggest maritime disasters that could have ever occurred.
As far as maintaining of state-of-the art assets used for this type of damage control operations is concerned against their cost, the utility of them is not economical for a small country like Sri Lanka, given the fact that such occurrences are rare in island’s waters.
Since the ocean is considered as global common, every country has an obligation under international conventions to play its part in damage control operations at sea and countries are constantly seeking international assistance to manage such disasters.
In such circumstances, the experience and knowledge gained by the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Air Force through this damage control operation will be of great value for the future.