Sri Lanka Beach Pollution- This year May 20 witnessed a heart-rending situation, when Singapore-based container ship, X-Press Pearl, caught fire. The 610-foot container ship got ablaze thus, disrupting the Sri Lankan marine life. The aftermath of the disaster was so horrific that the marine life, fishing, and tourism industry had been vastly affected. It took a total of six days to douse the fire and the debris it is hurting marine life by killing fishes, crabs, turtles, birds, and other marine creatures. Though the reasons were unknown, authorities suspected that the fire was the result of the nitric acid leak. Nitric gas transportation comes under dangerous cargo shipment and should be handled safely. The disaster is considered to erupt from human negligence.
It is feared that the after-effects would be more dangerous as the authorities are suspecting that it may lead to an oil spill or spillage of other harmful and toxic chemicals that the ship was carrying. The vessel was carrying approximately 1500 cargo containers that accommodated methanol, sodium methoxide, diesel, bunker oil, and nitric acid. The containers also had small plastic pellets which killed many fishes and other sea animals as micro plastic pellets got stuck in their mouths.
Muditha Katuwawala, the Pearl Protector coordinator said, “It’s very close to a nuclear disaster, what has happened here.” The Pearl Protector is an organization whose volunteers are dedicated to protecting the marine life of Sri Lanka. According to the X-Press Feeders, the first day that is on May 20, the smoke started emanating, then came fire, and on May 22 the firefighting tugs and helicopters heard an explosion in the ship when they were trying to douse the fire. The ship’s crew and the rescuers that were sent on board to stop the fire were rescued on May 25 by fully evacuating the ship. The ship started sinking on June 2 and hit the ocean floor which is 68 feet below. Though the fire has subsided, the vessel is still at the sea bottom and environmentalists are fearing oil and dangerous cargo leaks.
Though the reasons are unknown for the fire, speculations are that leakage in the nitric acid container was at fault. Nitric acid is used for making fertilizer and plastic items. The company’s spokesperson said that the ship’s crew asked from India and Qatar ports to unload the leaking shipping container but was denied on the basis that the countries didn’t have experts to handle the container.
There were approximately 1500 containers and 81 of them were carrying dangerous substances which also consisted of 25 metric tons of nitric acid. The scientists and environmentalists think that though the color of seawater is not changing for now the effects may be seen later. The toxic substances effect will harm the marine animals, coral reefs and may even bring down the fishery industry as in the absence of coral reefs, the fishes will be gone. More than toxic substances, micro pellets of plastics will hurt the environment and coastal region as it is mixed in the sea and is not going to dissolve or degrade in it. The spillage of micro plastics has raised the temperature of the sand which will affect the incubation of tortoise eggs thus harming the sea tortoises at large. The pellets get stuck in the mouths and throats of fishes, tortoises, and other sea creatures, thus strangling and killing them. And the pellets have spread approximately 230 miles along the west coast side of Sri Lanka.
The whole scenario is under investigation and more than 50,000 bags and approximately 1075 tons of waste and debris have been removed from 138 beaches. Fishers had been banned from going fishing within a 50 mile stretch of the coast near the ship to avoid any more mishappening. After the Suez Canal crisis, where Ever given, a Japanese-owned container ship was stuck in the Suez Canal, this is a second major jolt to the global supply chain and the shipping container industry in 2021.
Incidents like the Beirut Explosion of 2020, the Suez Canal Crisis, or the present case of X-Press Pearl catching fire, such events cause a severe imbalance in global trade and threat to the environment and in some cases human life loss. We should learn from the mistakes and try to analyze the root cause of incidents so that we can mitigate any such incident. The incidents have the capacity to not only cause trouble in the shipping industry or shipping container industry but disrupts the global supply chain for days.