Sri Lanka recovers black box from sinking ship, halts dive
A black box from a sinking container ship off Sri Lanka has been recovered but a dive Sunday to check for oil leaks had to be halted, the navy said.
The voyage data recorder, also known as the maritime “black box”, was found intact and should help investigators review procedures and instructions before an accident.
The Navy said divers were deployed for the third time on Sunday to examine the fuel tanks of the MV X-Press Pearl, but were unable to complete their mission due to poor visibility and the rough sea.
However, they did not notice any oil spills in the area, a naval officer told AFP. He said another dive would be attempted when the weather improved.
Sri Lankan officials hope the black box will provide details of the ship’s movements and communications with the port in the capital Colombo, where it was due to dock.
“The navy helped technicians remove the VDR from the bridge which is still above the waterline,” navy spokeswoman Indika de Silva told AFP.
The Singapore-registered ship has been slowly sinking into the Indian Ocean since Wednesday after a fire that raged for nearly two weeks on sight of the coast.
The ship, carrying 25 tons of nitric acid and a huge amount of plastic raw materials, was heading for Colombo from Gujarat, India.
Sri Lankan officials said an acid leak since May 11 may have started the blaze. The ports of Qatar and India refused to unload the leaking nitric acid, they added.
Police in the island nation have opened a criminal investigation, questioning the ship’s captain and chief engineer – both Russian – and its chief officer, an Indian, and seizing their passports.
Authorities are preparing for a possible oil spill after the stern submersion. There has been no sign of a leak so far, they added.
Tons of microplastic pellets from the ship flooded an 80-kilometer (50-mile) stretch of beach declared off-limits to residents. Fishing in the area has also been banned.
Sri Lankan environmentalists on Friday sued the government and the ship’s operators for allegedly failing to prevent what they called the “worst maritime disaster” in the country’s history.
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