‘Black box’ recovered from ship sinking off Lanka

Published June 7, 2021
In this file photo taken on June 2, 2021 the Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl sinks after burning for almost two weeks outside Colombo's harbour. — AFP
In this file photo taken on June 2, 2021 the Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl sinks after burning for almost two weeks outside Colombo's harbour. — AFP

COLOMBO: A black box from a container ship sinking off Sri Lanka was recovered on Sunday, but a dive to check for oil leaks had to be aborted.

The voyage data recorder (VDR), also known as “maritime black box”, was found intact and is expected to help investigators review procedures and instructions ahead of an accident. The navy said divers were deployed for a third time on Sunday to examine the fuel tanks of MV X-Press Pearl, but they were unable to carry out their mission due to poor visibility and choppy seas.

However, they did not notice any oil slick in the area, a navy officer said. He said another dive would be attempted when the weather improved.

Sri Lankan authorities hope the black box will provide details of the ship’s movements and its communications with the harbour in 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,” spokesman Indika de Silva said.

The Singapore-registered vessel 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 India’s Gujarat state.

Sri Lankan officials have said an acid leak since May 11 may have sparked the blaze. Ports in Qatar and India had refused to offload the leaking nitric acid, they added.

Police on the island nation launched a criminal investigation, interviewing the vessel’s skipper and chief engineer — both Russians — and its chief officer, an Indian, and seizing their passports.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2021

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