A “black box” from a ship loaded with chemical and plastic that is sinking off Sri Lanka has been located, officials said yesterday, as investigators probe what caused the vessel to catch fire.
The voyage data recorder (VDR), also known as a “maritime black box,” enables investigators to review procedures and instructions ahead of an accident.
LOOKING FOR CLUES
Sri Lankan authorities said they hope it would provide details of the ship’s movements and its communications with the harbor in the capital, Colombo, where it had been due to dock.
“The navy facilitated technicians to remove the VDR from the bridge which is still above the waterline,” Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Indika de Silva said.
The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl has been slowly sinking into the Indian Ocean since Wednesday, after a fire that raged for nearly two weeks within sight of the coast.
The ship, carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid and a huge amount of plastic raw materials, was heading to Colombo from Gujarat, India.
Sri Lankan officials have said that an acid leak since May 11 might have sparked the blaze. Ports in Qatar and India had refused to offload the leaking nitric acid, they added.
Police have launched a criminal investigation, interviewing the vessel’s skipper and chief engineer — both Russians — and its chief officer, an Indian, and seizing their passports.
BRACING FOR SPILL
Authorities are bracing for a possible oil spill after the stern submerged. There has been no sign of any leaks so far, they said.
Tonnes of microplastic granules from the ship swamped an 80km stretch of beach declared off-limits for residents. Fishing in the area was also banned.
Sri Lankan environmentalists on Friday sued the government and the ship’s operators for allegedly failing to prevent what they called the “worst marine disaster” in the country’s history.
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