Jun 2, 2021 - World

Shipping vessel carrying chemicals to sink off coast of Sri Lanka

The Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl sinking after burning for almost two weeks just outside Colombo's harbor on June 2.

The Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl sinking after burning for almost two weeks just outside Colombo's harbor on June 2. Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP via Getty Images

A Singapore-registered container ship carrying containers of harmful chemicals and plastics is on the verge of sinking outside the port of Colombo, Sri Lanka, after burning for almost two weeks.

Why it matters: The events are shaping up to be one of Sri Lanka's worst environmental crises.

Context: Sri Lankan and Indian military personnel extinguished most of the blaze upon the ship, registered as the X-Press Pearl, earlier this week.

  • Toxic debris from the fire has blanketed miles of the country's western coastline, and "billions of plastic pellets" from the ship have washed up on beaches up to 75 miles south, according to the Washington Post.
  • It is unknown how the fire started.

By the numbers: The ship had been carrying 1,486 containers, 81 of which contained dangerous goods, including 25 tons of nitric acid. It was also carrying 78 metric tons of plastic pellets

  • The country's ministry of fisheries has also prepared for a potential oil spill, since the ship is sinking with hundreds of tons of oil meant to fuel it to Malaysia.

What they're saying: X-Press Feeders, the cargo ship company that operates X-Press Pearl, said Wednesday "that the ships aft portion is sitting on the seabed at a depth of about 21 meters, and the forward section is settling down slowly."

  • The company said it "regret[s] to report that despite salvors successfully boarding the vessel and attaching a tow wire, efforts to move the ship to deeper waters have failed..."
  • What to watch: Sri Lanka's government said it will take legal action against the owners of the ship, according to NPR.
Go deeper