Oil Slick Reaches Colombo Coast After Ship Sinks

by
staff
An oil slick from a rusting cargo vessel that sank in bad weather reached the coast of Sri Lanka's capital Saturday, but officials insisted the spill was "manageable" and could easily be cleaned up.

A patch of oil reached the coast of Wellawatte in Colombo, the coast conservation department said

An oil slick from a rusting cargo vessel that sank in bad weather reached the coast of Sri Lanka's capital Saturday, but officials insisted the spill was "manageable" and could easily be cleaned up.

A patch of oil reached the coast of Wellawatte, a zone of Colombo popular with local swimmers, the coast conservation department said.

The national Disaster Management Centre (DMC) has said the slick is about 10 kilometres (six miles) long and warned that areas popular with tourists could be at risk.

But the spill had not reached any such areas on Saturday and the conservation department said it did not pose a great danger.

"The spill is manageable and the leak from the sunken ship had stopped from last night," department chief Anil Premarathne told AFP. "About 10 or 15 people would be enough for this clean up."

The rusting 15,000-tonne Thmothrmopolyseara, a Cyprus-flagged carrier, went down late Thursday after remaining anchored outside the Colombo harbour since 2009 following a dispute over its cargo of steel, local officials said.

The DMC said it had mobilised 500 volunteers, including security personnel, for a coastal clean up if the problem got worse.

Centre director Sarath Kumara said much of the 600 tonnes of oil from the ship had been pumped out before it sank and only a small residue remained aboard.

The coast line from Mount Lavinia, a popular tourist resort just south of the capital Colombo, and Negombo, the first beach resort opened for tourism in the early 1970s, was at risk, the DMC said.

The vessel had been detained by Sri Lankan courts following litigation over the cargo of steel valued at over $300 million, according to local media reports. It was not clear who owned the vessel.

Sri Lanka's merchant shipping authority director Ajith Seneviratne said they were ready to tow the ship away to a salvage yard in the island's east, but were prevented by a court order against the removal.