Salvage teams and officers from the Sri Lanka Navy were able to reboard the VLCC New Diamond and undertake their first inspection of the burnt-out crude oil tanker now that they have confirmed the fire has been extinguished. They are working on stabilizing the situation aboard the vessel while a plan is finalized for its salvage.
The Sri Lanka Navy said despite continued rough sea conditions 17 members of the salvage team and four of its officers had been aboard the New Diamond. They reported that the vessel is stabile although with parts of the engine room and machinery areas flooded it is riding low at the stern. Among their first efforts was to begin to vent the interior of the ship to remove any potentially toxic gasses from the fire.
A spokesperson for the Sri Lanka Navy told Reuters that the team had been successful in identifying the bunker fuel tank that is leaking and believed to be the cause of the oil stains they located on the ocean after the tow of the tanker began. The plan is to empty that diesel fuel tank to stop further leaks.
However, with the vessel dead in the water after the fire, the Indian Navy said it would be impossible to explore removing the crude oil cargo from the New Diamond before the ship could be brought to port. They believed that after the salvage team was successful at stabilizing the situation aboard the ship that it would be towed to a local port.
This comes as Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) told reporters that they would be sending a letter to the tanker’s owners demanding that the New Diamond be towed entirely out of Sri Lankan waters. The reports inferred that they would not be granting permission for the ship to be brought into Sri Lanka due to fears of an additional oil leak.
The individual teams in India and Sri Lanka that had combined to fight the fire continued to receive a broad range of congratulation on their successful effort at dousing the fire six days after it began and avoiding a serious environmental incident. SMIT has been assigned the task of completing the salvage operation although the Indian and Sri Lankan forces continue to monitor the situation.