Sri Lanka arrests captain over ship fire pollution

Published June 15, 2021
Sri Lankan police officers escort Russian Captain Tyutkalo Vitaly, center, of fire damaged container ship MV X-Press Pearl at a court before the hearing begins in Colombo on June 14. — AP
Sri Lankan police officers escort Russian Captain Tyutkalo Vitaly, center, of fire damaged container ship MV X-Press Pearl at a court before the hearing begins in Colombo on June 14. — AP

COLOMBO: The Russian skipper of a container ship that caught fire and burned for almost two weeks before sinking off Sri Lanka’s coast has been arrested and is expected to be charged with marine pollution, police said on Monday.

The island nation is seeking $40 million in damages from the operators of the ship, which released tonnes of plastic raw materials that swamped local beaches in what officials called the “worst marine disaster” in the country’s history.

Vitaly Tyutkalo, the captain of the Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl, was arrested at his hotel in the capital Colombo on Monday and faced the High Court before being released on bail.

“No formal charges were laid, but he was produced before court on suspicion that he has committed an offence under the Marine Pollution Prevention Act,” a police official said.

Tyutkalo, whose passport had previously been seized, will return to the court, which has jurisdiction over maritime issues, on July 1, he added.

The passports of the chief engineer, Oleg Sadilenko, who is also a Russian national, and Chief Officer Peter Anish, an Indian, were also seized. All three were questioned by police after a criminal probe was launched.

Police told a Colombo magistrate last week the local agent of X-Press Pearl had deleted emails vital to the investigation.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2021

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