Legal action against oil vessel owners


Marine Environment Protection Authority Director General S R Samaratunga yesterday said they will take legal action against owners of the Cyprus flagged Bulk Carrier MV Thermopylae that has sunk within a range of six to eight nautical miles off the shores of Panadura.

Samaratunga said they are taking steps to assess the extent of damage the ship has caused on Sri Lanka’s coastal environment with its oil spillage to the sea.

Meanwhile, Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Co-operation (IOMAC) Secretary General Dr Hiran W Jayawardena told the Daily News yesterday that Sri Lankan authoririties can claim damages from the vessel owner for oil pollution damage it has caused on the marine environment.

As pointed out by Our Nation and Sea (ONS) co-ordinators Jayawardena and Razik Zarook , they have alerted both Director of Merchant Shipping and MEPA about the possibilities of the ship sinking with the advent present monsoons.” The damages could run into to billions,”they said.

MEPA Director General Samaratunga said, they have informed both courts and the Director of Merchant Shipping about the situation.

Commenting on the impact and the extent of damage the spillage of oil can inflict on marine environment, “We are in the process of assessing the damages.

We are trying to get the owners of the ship, which is a Greek company, on the matter as soon as possible,” he said.

Asked why MEPA did not take any steps to remove the ship from Sri Lankan coast to avoid any harm that it might cause on marine environment, Samaratunga said that the ship has been detained in the waters by a court order. This is over a dispute.

“The ship has been anchored there for seven years,” said Samaratunga.

Asked if MEPA’s decision did not override the national interest, Samaratunga said he could not comment on it because of the pending court case. However, he said , “the steps will be taken to confiscate even the wreckage of the ship.”

According to MEPA, they have removed most of the oil stocks in the ship. There was some 350 tonnes of oil on the ship.

There were around some 70 tonnes of oil in the ship when it sank, said MEPA chairman R S Ariyapperuma. According to Ariyapperuma , they have drawn a contingency plan to minimize oil pollution damages. The Disaster Management Center is currently working on it with the Navy. The oil has surfaced and spreading in the seas since the ship sank yesterday.

As pointed out by environmentalists, it could result in dwindling of marine life , which could mean that situation can have an adverse effect on the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen.

Meanwhile, an oil slick extending to about 12kms could be seen in the seas off the Western coast due to the oil spill from Cyprus merchant ship, Samaratunga told the Daily News yesterday.

He said the oil would not reach the coast unless there was a change in the direction of ocean currents.

He said the oil patch was seen 5km away from the western coast by yesterday noon.

He said oil booms and dispersant would be put in place if the need arises. Booms are one of the tools that oil cleanup crews are using to prevent the oil contamination of the beach.

An Environment Ministry spokesman said the Navy and National Aquatic Resources Agency(NARA) are working to minimize the environmental damage, while the Central Environmental Authority and Disaster Management Centre have been kept in alert to react swiftly if a danger of oil reaching the coast emerges.

Disaster Management Centre Deputy Director of Media Sarath Lal Kumara said it is ready to take immediate action if the oil reached the shore.

He said the DMC units in Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha have had kept updated all the time over the situation.

He said the support of Police, Tri Forces and Non Governmental Organizations have also been received by the DMC to face the situation.


Courtesy: Daily News