Salvor, Sri Lanka navy experts board fire-stricken New Diamond

A team of experts from the Sri Lanka Navy and the salvage company hired by the owner of the fire-damaged supertanker New Diamond has boarded the vessel for the first time after several days of fighting a fire on board.

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The team is assessing the damage the ship suffered as a result of the fire, which broke out on September 3 following an explosion of a boiler in the ship’s main engine room.

Based on these assessments, it would be decided what future actions would be taken to salvage the ship.

The very large crude carrier has been towed about 50 nautical miles (93km) off Kalmunai from its previous location of about 37 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point as a precaution measure.

The fire fighting operation, towing exercise, as well as the boarding of the ship, are taking place during rough sea conditions.

The Sri Lanka Air Force has released footage of its fire-fighting operations, including the utilization of chemical powder to douse the fire while flying through the billowing dark smoke.

The daring effort has helped prevent a colossal maritime disaster, the navy said. Inclement weather also contributed to reigniting the fire on board on September 8, just a day after the navy said the fire was extinguished.

On September 9, another fuel patch was spotted in the sea area where the ship is located and it was revealed that the recent fuel patch and the one noticed the previous day had been caused by leaks from the ship’s fuel tanks.

The slick has been described to be 10 to 30 meters wide and about a nautical mile long.

“Following these developments, a Dornier aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard stationed at the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport was flown to the area where the fuel patch was observed and dispersants were airdropped to the sea area to minimize its impact on the marine environment.

“Photographs snapped by the Indian Coast Guard and Sri Lanka Air Force aircraft indicated that the fuel patch that was observed the day before is no longer visible and the one reported today (September 9) is being dissolved gradually,” the navy said in an update.

As explained, during the fire-fighting operation the ship’s engine and pump rooms have been flooded with seawater, stabling in trim by aft condition.

Therefore, it is suspected that the fuel slicks were caused by sludge oozed with floodwater. This could be one of the contributing factors to the ship’s listing, as shown in the footage of the boarding operation.

According to technical analysis cited by the navy, the ship’s crude oil tanks are not damaged as of now and there are no reports of crude oil dripping from the stricken ship.

A joint diving operation by a Sri Lanka Navy and Indian Coast Guard diving team is scheduled to confirm this, once the prevailing rough sea condition recedes.

Water samples from the area have also been taken for further examination. “Efforts are being made to remove toxic gases and other vapours, caused by THE fire, from the engine room and other compartments of the ship, as of now,” the navy said. “Once the safety procedures are complete, the responsibility of the ship rests with the ship’s owner and its salvation firm.”

New Diamond was transporting 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil from the Port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Port of Paradip in India when the fire broke out aboard the ship.

One crew member died in the explosion while the remaining 22 men were evacuated.

The rescued crew members, who were isolated onboard Sri Lanka navy ship Sindurala were transferred to the port of Hambantota.

The 2000-built very large crude carrier is owned by New Shipping Ltd from Greece, according to the data from VesselsValue.