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Cargo fire doused on X-Press Pearl off the Port of Colombo

Pollution is feared to have been released from a burning container ship carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid and other chemicals, following the outbreak of fire in the section of the vessel where chemical cargoes are stowed.

The blaze that began in the forward section of the 2,743TEU X-Press Pearl on 20 May has been doused by the Sri Lankan Navy along with a tug that was in attendance 9.5 nautical miles off the coast of Colombo.

Officials from the Sri Lankan Navy said the fire had been extinguished overnight, but that heat from the fire meant that firefighters were monitoring the vessel in case a further outbreak occurred.

The ship had arrived from Hazira Port, India and was at anchorage in Sri Lankan waters off Colombo Port when the fire broke out. According to navy sources, the fire began in the fore part of the vessel where the chemical cargoes are stowed, but no further news on what ignited the cargo was available.

On receiving a distress call from X-Press Pearl, which was delivered in February this year, the Sri Lankan Navy dispatched two offshore patrol vessels, the Sri Lanka Naval Ship Sagara, Sindurala and a fast attack craft to aid the crew.

All 25 crew, who are of multiple nationalities, Chinese, Filipino, Russian and Indian, are thought to be safe. Sri Lankan authorities have managed to board the vessel and are investigating the incident.

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