COLOMBO – The Sri Lankan navy warned on Wednesday that although the second fire that broke out within a week on oil tanker New Diamond off its coast had been extinguished, it had detected an oil spill from the ship spread over two nautical miles.
The navy said that its current priority was to minimize the environmental impact of the disaster.
The tanker, carrying about 2.7 million tons of crude oil, first caught fire on Sept. 3 off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, triggering fears of a major oil spill in the Indian Ocean.
On Monday, a day after authorities had claimed to have extinguished the first fire, fresh blazes and smoke was reported onboard, which has finally been controlled now according to officials.
However, Sri Lankan navy spokesperson India de Silva told EFE that “the fuel oil or what we have identified as the heavy fuel oil is still seeping from the ship.”
“A Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard was flown to the site to airdrop diesel dispersant to minimize the potential impact on the marine environment,” he added.
The Indian Coast Guard tweeted images of the plane spraying dispersant to “disintegrate” the spill.
“There are no flames or smoke to be noticed as of now and the distressed ship is being towed further away towards safe waters by a tug,” the Sri Lankan navy said in a press release.
It added that the ship was “now about 37 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point (on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka) and the disaster management operation is continuing at full steam in rough sea conditions and strong winds.”
The Panama-registered New Diamond caught fire while on its way from Kuwait to India’s Paradip seaport that houses a major oil refinery owned by the state-run firm Indian Oil.
At least one member of the ship’s crew has been presumed dead, while 22 others were rescued and transferred to a hospital in Sri Lanka as part of the initial operation.
The incident has caused fears of an environmental disaster in Sri Lanka and Maldives among organizations working to protect the marine ecology, and the attorney general of Sri Lanka ordered an assessment of the environmental damage caused by the fire.
The incident comes a month after another Panamanian ship carrying 4,000 tons of fuel spilled part of its cargo in waters close to Mauritius as the tanker ran aground and suffered major damage.