COLOMBO (NewsRadio); Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe says Sri Lanka will today file a case in Singapore against the owners of the MV X-Press Pearl vessel for the environmental damages caused after the container ship caught fire off the western coast of Colombo in May 2021.
Responding to a question raised in Parliament today, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa said the Attorney General’s Department will file the in a commercial court in Singapore seeking compensation from the shipping company.
The X-Press Pearl vessel was carrying 1,486 containers when it caught fire off Colombo on the 20th of May 2021, and began sinking.
Eighty-one of the containers were labeled hazardous, and the cargo included 25 metric tons of nitric acid — a key ingredient in the production of explosives, and touted as a possible factor for the fire.
There were several explosions, and it took more than a week to bring the fire under control.
Attempts by authorities to tow the ship to deeper waters failed, and the vessel, only three months after being commissioned, sank on the 2nd of June, a few kilometers off the western coast.
The incident is considered as one of the worst marine environmental disasters.
As of June 2021, about 40 dead turtles were reported to have washed up on the shore.
In addition to turtles, many species of fish, whales, and at least six dolphins also washed up with multiple burn marks.
Following the incident, the Marine Environment Protection Authority appointed a committee of experts comprising professors and other relevant top public officials to assess the damage.
Earlier, the MEPA said it provided all necessary documents to the Attorney General’s Department to prosecute the owners of the vessel or the operator or the agents in Sri Lanka under the Criminal Law, in terms of Section 26 of the Prevention of Maritime Corruption Act.
As the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers was previously granted to continue the litigation process in Singapore, the Attorney General’s Department recently mentioned that it is proceeding with the legal matter accordingly.
However, the committee of expert lawyers appointed to look into the matter suggested that the prosecution be done in Sri Lanka to recover the estimated USD 6.2 billion in damages.
The committee, separately appointed by the Minister of Justice to look into the damages and destruction caused by the fire onboard the MV X-Press Pearl vessel handed over its report to Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe in January.
The committee comprised of 40 individuals with vast knowledge both locally and internationally in the field.
Meanwhile, the decision to continue the legal proceedings in Singapore was criticized by several factions considering the costs involved.
The MEPA, however, explained that the Australian law firm, which is assisting the Attorney General’s Department with the civil suit to claim compensation, had advised that carrying out the litigation process in Singapore is favourable to Sri Lanka.
Following several delays, last week it was announced that Sri Lanka will file a case seeking compensation from a court in Singapore.