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One person dead, one injured after supertanker catches fire off Sri Lanka coast

07 September 2020

A Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) caught fire on September 3 off the coast of Sri Lanka and burned for three days before the flames were extinguished. One person died in the incident aboard the MT New Diamond tanker, while another crewman was injured and taken to hospital in a serious condition.

Image: Sri Lanka Navy
Image: Sri Lanka Navy

The MT New Diamond, was sailing 38 nautical miles (70km) off Sangamankanda Point east of Sri Lanka when it sent a distress signal to authorities at the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Center in Colombo. The New Diamond had a crew of 23 people, including 5 Greek national and 18 Philippine nationals, and was carrying around 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil from the port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip. There was also a reported 1700 metric tonnes of diesel stored onboard to be used as fuel.

The Sri Lankan Navy brought in several boats and a helicopter to assist in firefighting efforts while four Indian ships and two Russian anti-submarine ships also assisted in the operation.

On September 5, the navy said that there was no immediate threat of an oil spill, but that if one should occur, it would be an environmental disaster. An Indian ship assisting in the operation said that it had observed a 2m crack in the New Diamond’s hull above the water line.

Image: Sri Lanka Navy
Image: Sri Lanka Navy

The New Diamond is a Panamanian-flagged tanker that had been chartered by Indian Oil Corp.

After burning for three days, the Sri Lanka Navy said in a statement that the fire had been brought under control. However, due to high temperatures inside the ship and environmental factors, there was a risk that further fires could erupt. Several vessels and craft have remained nearby the New Diamond to continue cooling operations. The statement added that salvage operations will begin shortly.

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