Fresh blaze on stricken oil tanker off Sri Lanka: Navy

The New Diamond crude carrier of Indian Oil Corporation is on fire

A massive fire that crippled an oil tanker off Sri Lanka has reignited in strong winds, Sri Lanka Navy said Monday, just a day after the blaze was extinguished.

The Panamanian-registered New Diamond, carrying over 270,000 tonnes of crude and diesel, was en-route from Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip when it issued a distress call Thursday after an engine room explosion that killed a Filipino crew member.

The ensuing fire was put out Sunday through the combined efforts of Sri Lanka’s navy and air force, the Indian navy and coastguard, as well as private operators.

Firefighters continued to douse the tanker with water and dry chemicals, but the squally conditions — where winds were blowing at up to 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph) — led to a fresh flare-up.

“Due high winds… the fire which has already been doused, has re-ignited from the effects of extreme temperature and sparks onboard,” the navy said in a statement.

Sri Lanka navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told AFP the blaze was at a “serious level, but we hope we will be able to contain it”.

The tanker was earlier pulled away from the country’s coast but the high winds moved it some 18 kilometres (11 miles) closer to the shore, officials said.

Powerful tug boats were now secured to the large ship to prevent it from moving closer, they added.

The navy said the cargo has not been affected by the recurrence of the fire.

The vessel had suffered a crack of its hull some 10 metres (33 feet) above the waterline as a result of intense heat from the first fire, officials said.

But authorities had said there was no oil slick and the crack was not considered a catastrophic structural failure.

Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Agency has said that legal action could be taken against the owners, Liberian-registered Porto Emporios Shipping Inc, “should the worst happen and the ship breaks up”.