Stricken tanker’s captain to face charges in Sri Lanka

Asia

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will file negligence and pollution charges against the Greek skipper of an oil tanker that leaked fuel off the island nation’s coast after a week-long fire, authorities said Wednesday (Sep 16).

Some of the 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil aboard the New Diamond poured into the Indian Ocean, prompting a large effort to contain a slick that was roughly two kilometres in length.

Its 270,000-tonne cargo of crude oil was unaffected by the fire.

“There is sufficient evidence to prosecute the skipper under the marine pollution act as well as the penal code for criminal negligence,” a spokeswoman for Attorney-General Dappula de Livera told reporters in Colombo.

Much of the slick has been cleaned up and no further fuel has leaked from the vessel since Friday. For now, there are no signs of the slick reaching the coast.

The Panamanian-registered tanker’s owners would also be slapped with a US$1.88 million fire-fighting bill, de Livera said in a statement.

The vessel is owned by Liberian-registered Porto Emporios Shipping Inc and managed by Greek ship owner, New Shipping Limited, according to the Sri Lankan navy.

Compensation would also be sought from the owners for the cost of any environmental clean-up and damage, the statement added.

Sri Lanka has meanwhile asked the ship’s owners to tow the 330-metre tanker beyond its exclusive economic zone, which extends 370 kilometres from its coast.

The nation’s environmental authorities fear a marine disaster if the tanker is allowed to transfer its oil to another ship in the country’s waters.

The stricken tanker is currently located some 70 nautical miles east off the Sri Lankan coastal town of Batticaloa.

The ship issued a distress signal in early September while en route to the northeast Indian port of Paradip when a boiler exploded killing a Filipino crewman

The vessel’s remaining 22 crew, including the captain, were rescued and are in quarantine at a hotel in the southern port city of Galle under the supervision of the navy.

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