ICG assists in firefighting in MV X-Press Pearl
Since 25 May 21, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Sri Lankan authorities have been engaged in a challenging fire fighting operation to extinguish the massive fire re-ignited onboard container vessel MV X-Press Pearl off Colombo.
The round the clock joint fire fighting operation now running in its sixth day has been named as Operation Sagar Aaraksha 2 which symbolises growing maritime cooperation and collaboration between the two countries.
It may be recalled that a similar joint operation between India and Sri Lanka was named Sagar Aaraksha in Sep 2020 wherein ICG Ships and Sri Lankan authorities were involved in fire fighting operation onboard MT New Diamond with 2,70,000 Metric Tonnes of crude oil off the East Coast of Sri Lanka averting a major oil spill.
At present, 03 ICG Ships and 04 tugs deployed by Sri Lanka are involved in the operation and continuously fighting the fire spraying AFFF and sea water using external fire fighting systems. The non-stop joint firefighting efforts have yielded positive results with increasing signs of fire being under control. The smoke emanating from the burning vessel has turned from black to grey/ white in colour and the smoke density has also reduced. The fire has been localised to a small area near the aft section of vessel.
ICG Ships in addition to their Fire Fighting capabilities are also equipped with adequate Pollution Response capabilities for oil spill, if any. The presence of a specialised Pollution Response vessel ICGS Samudra Prahari since 29 May 21 has provided added strength to overall onscene
preventive PR capabilities. Additionally, ICG Dornier aircraft sorties are being undertaken daily from Madurai for aerial assessment of the situation. Reports from the ships and aircraft indicate that there has been no oil spill. Further, with the careful and measured execution of firefighting operation, no change has been observed in trim and draught of the vessel indicating that the stability and watertight integrity of the vessel is intact.
ICG Ships and tugs of Sri Lankan authorities are undertaking continuous boundary cooling. Also, dropping of DCP bags over the burning vessel is being undertaken by Sri Lankan helicopter to contain and extinguish the metallic fire. ICG formations at Kochi, Chennai and Tuticorin remain standby for immediate assistance if any, towards Pollution Response. Indian Coast Guard is closely monitoring the situation and maintaining continuous liaison with Sri Lankan Navy, Coast Guard, MEPA and other authorities.