02 OCT 2020 

More than three weeks after the fire was extinguished on the crude oil tanker off the coast of Sri Lanka, the saga continues to bring the ship to port to off-load the approximately two million barrels of crude oil that were being transported to India at the time of the fire. In the latest development, Sri Lanka has apparently given permission for the fire-stricken tanker to leave its waters after some last-minute negotiations regarding compensation.

A spokesperson for the Sri Lana Navy told the local media that the navy has two vessels monitoring the New Diamond until it is outside the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone. It is believed that the salvage team is now planning on towing the tanker to the United Arab Emirates. The Indian Oil Corporation, which had chartered the tanker at the time of the fire, reported that the vessel will go to the Khor Fakkan port in the UAE. There they plan to pump the crude oil to a new tanker which will then complete the delivery to the refinery at Paradip, India. No timeline was announced to complete this process.

This represents yet another change in plan for the salvage efforts. A week ago, it was reported that the tanker would be towed to an offshore oil terminal at Kandla Port Trust. At the beginning of this week, the Indian Coast Guard said that the tow was underway and that they were closely monitoring the effort that was expected to take approximately 12 days.

Permission for the tanker to depart Sri Lanka was being withheld pending assurances from the ship’s owners that they were paying the claims Sri Lanka filed. The Sri Lankan authorities had submitted a claim totaling nearly $2 million for its efforts in the firefight and the environmental damage caused when the ship’s diesel fuel tank leaked. Sri Lanka said at the time it was a preliminary claim for costs up to mid-September. The Greek shipping company Porto Emporios Shipping, which is the registered owner of the New Diamond, has reportedly agreed to a settlement to be paid by the vessel’s insurers.

At the beginning of this week, the captain of the New Diamond also made an appearance in the magistrate’s court in Sri Lanka where they are attempting to bring him up on charges of causing the oil pollution and failure to properly fight the fire. The charges are in violation of the Marine Pollution Prevention Act. The magistrate agreed to place a travel ban on the captain, but refused requests to remand him. The case is scheduled to next be heard in the court on October 12.

The fire on the New Diamond was extinguished on September 9 after a nearly week-long joint effort by the navy and coast guard from India and Sri Lanka with assistance from the Sri Lanka Air Force. Smit was given the salvage job.

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