Sri Lanka Files $17.38M Pollution Claim to Fire-Damaged Tanker's Owner

environmental damage claim from fire aboard tanker
New Diamond was seen trailing oil after the fire was extinguished (photo Sri Lanka Airforce)

Published Apr 12, 2021 5:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Sri Lankan government filed an additional $17.38 million maritime pollution claim against the owners of the tanker that burnt in September 2020 off the coast of the country. This is in addition to previous claims for reimbursement for the cost of the fire fighting efforts and a fine levied against the captain of the ship for contributing to and failing to properly report the environmental damage.

According to reports in the Sri Lankan media, a final report of the damages was presented to the country’s Attorney General at the end of last week. The Attorney General’s office had been working with other government agencies, including the Marine Environment Protection Authority in the preparation of the report.

The fire aboard the New Diamond broke out on September 3, 2020, while the vessel was sailing south of Sri Lanka transporting 230,000 metric tons of crude oil from Kuwait to a refinery in India. One member of the engine room crew was killed in the explosion and fire while the ship was evacuated. The fire fighting effort lasted for a week involving both vessels and aircraft from Sri Lanka and India. After the fire was extinguished and while the vessel was being repositioned further out to sea approximately 400 metric tons of diesel fuel from the engine room leaked overboard. Dispersants were dropped on the oil slick from the air.

Sri Lanka had refused permission for the vessel to be towed away until the country received more than $2.3 million in compensation for the costs incurred fighting the fire. The ship’s captain was also detained in Sri Lanka but later released after a $65,000 fine was paid.

Salvage crews were able to take control of the fire-damaged vessel and the cargo remained intact and did not leak from the vessel. Nearly ten weeks after the fire destroyed the engine room and deckhouse on the MT New Diamond, the crude oil tanker anchored in Fujairah, UAE, where the plan was to transfer the crude oil to another tanker to complete the delivery to India.