Oil Tanker Fire Near Sri Lanka Coast "Under Control", Vessel Towed Away

Oil Tanker Fire Near Sri Lanka Coast

On Thursday morning at around 8:30am fire erupted in the engine room of the vessel VLCC tanker MT New Diamond, which was initially located about 38 nautical miles off the coast of Sri Lanka.

SMIT International Singapore, appointed by New Shipping Limited the owners of vessel is also sending equipment and experts in crude oil disaster management to MT New Diamond to commence the salvage operation, the Sri Lanka Navy said. An additional five Sri Lankan coast guard ships and gun boats are supplying the others vessels.

The tanker had 23 crew members - 18 Filipinos and five Greeks.

The Navy said Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Hambantota Port, Indian Oil Corporation, Colombo Dockyard and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation had contributed firefighting foam for the operation on the intervention of Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Protection Authority.

"The fire is under control but not out yet", de Silva said.

The Sri Lankan navy said there was no immediate danger of the tanker breaking up, despite reports of a two-metre (six-foot) crack in the hull above the water line.

"There is no oil slick reported", the Indian Coast Guard said after a joint effort by the two countries to contain the blaze.

"One of them was injured and he was airlifted out of the ship and the rest were accounted for".

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The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) said late yesterday that the fire had been brought "under control" through a "massive firefighting effort" by its vessels with the Indian navy and ships and aircraft from the Sri Lankan military.

The fire broke out following an explosion in the engine room of the New Diamond on Thursday morning, and it has spread to the bridge of the ship, which was travelling from Kuwait to Paradip port in India carrying a cargo of 270,000 tonnes of crude and 1,700 tonnes of diesel.

Three tugboats - two Indian and one chartered by the owners - were brought into action on Friday night to push the vessel back into deeper waters amid fears of an environmental disaster should the oil leak.

"It is not as bad as it seems", DMC head Sudantha Ranasinghe said. She said her organization plans to take legal action over the fire.

"The fire on the oil tanker has been doused".

"We have lodged a complaint with the area police and sought the attorney general's advice on the matter", she said. Sri Lankan officials have warned of possible massive environmental damage to Sri Lanka if the ship leaks or explodes.

The vessel is larger than the Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio, which crashed into a reef in Mauritius in July leaking more than 1,000 tonnes of oil into the island nation's pristine waters.

Maldivian minister at the president's office, Ahmed Naseem, called for precautionary measures across the archipelago that is about 1,000 kilometres southwest of Sri Lanka.

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