A massive oiler ablaze off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka is being towed bent sea amid fears of a serious new oil spill within the Indian Ocean.
The Panamanian-registered vessel, which began burning on Thursday, is carrying about 270,000 tonnes of petroleum.
Sri Lanka’s navy and India’s coastguard have attempted to douse the blaze with water cannon and helicopter drops.
One Filipino crewman died in an engineering explosion that sparked the hearth, the Sri Lankan navy said.
The remaining 22 crew, consisting of 5 Greeks and 17 Filipinos, began the ship, officials said.
The 330-meter (1,080-foot) vessel – the New Diamond – is owned by Liberia-based Porto Emporios Shipping Inc.
A spokesperson for the Navy said on Friday there was no immediate threat of an oil spill, but that within the event of a spill Sri Lanka would “definitely need international support”.
The navy also said that the Indian coast guard had observed a 2m crack within the New Diamond’s hull about 10m above the waterline.
Dharshani Lahandapura, the chair of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA), warned that an oil spill from the ship would be “one of the most important environmental disasters not only in the region but in the world”.
She said the MEPA would take action against the owners of the ship within the event of a spill.
“We have lodged a complaint with the world police and sought the attorney general’s advice on the matter,” she said.
Sudantha Ranasinghe, the top of Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre, said things were “not as bad because it seems”.
“The fire has not spread to the cargo. Once the hearth is put out, the vessel is going to be towed further away into deeper waters,” he told the AFP press agency .
The New Diamond issued a distress signal from about 60km (38 miles) off Sri Lanka’s East Coast, after the hearth began. The ship was on its way from Kuwait to the eastern Indian port of Paradip.
The stricken vessel began drifting towards the shore, prompting navy vessels to start towing it further out.
The Maldives, about 1,000km (625 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka, features a large coral eco-system in its waters and expressed concern over a possible spill.
“The Maldives must watch this oil spill carefully and take all precautions to stop it from reaching her shores,” Ahmed Naseem, Maldivian minister at the president’s office, wrote on Twitter.
Maldives needs to watch this oil spill carefully and take all precautions to prevent it from reaching her shores. This could be a major disaster. pic.twitter.com/tTXPYHe3a0
— Ahmed Naseem (@KerafaNaseem) September 3, 2020
A Japanese carrier, MV Wakashio, crashed into a reef in Mauritius in July, eventually leaking quite 1,000 tonnes of oil into surrounding waters.