Live Updates: Explosion Reignites Massive Fire Aboard X-Press Pearl, Crew Evacuated

x press pearl
Image Credit: Sri Lanka Navy

Update 4- 27 May 2021

The fire on MV X-PRESS PEARL, a container ship is subsiding at this point in time. As of this morning (27th May 2021), heavy smoke and small flames were observed from the ship. In the meantime, the Navy in coordination with the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) has launched a special operation to minimize the impact on the coast due to various debris, including containers wash ashore, after having fallen overboard the fire-damaged ship and to keep the public out of danger from getting in touch with possible chemical compounds contain in such items.

Sri Lanka Naval Ship ‘Gajabahu’ along with Indian Coast Guard Maritime Pollution Control Ships ‘Vajra’ and ‘Vaibhav’ continue to engage in damage control operations in the sea area where the distressed ship is lying. The Indian Coast Guard Ship‘Vajra’ which arrived in to augment firefighting mission handed over a stock of fire extinguishing agents (AFFF, OSD and DCP) to Sri Lanka Navy at the Colombo harbour on 26th May and returned to the waters where the distressed ship is lying.

Further, a Dornier aircraft from the Indian Coast Guard conducted sorties yesterday and today (27th May) covering the sea area where this ill-fated occurrence panned out, to collect details required for the marine pollution control operation.

Update 3- 25 May 2021

The fire that broke out in the forecastle area of the MV X-PRESS PEARL, a container ship anchored 9.5 nautical miles northwest of the Port of Colombo, is now spreading to the quarterdeck where the bridge is stationed. The fire was exacerbated by strong winds due to changing weather conditions. However, the crew of the ship and members of the emergency response team of the Salvor have been safely brought ashore as of now.



Against this backdrop, an Indian Coast Guard Maritime Pollution Preventive Ship with firefighting capabilities is scheduled to arrive to the scene of action by nightfall‍, at the request of Commander of the Sri Lankan Navy, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne. In addition, a Dornier aircraft carrying fire extinguishing agents and oil- dispersants is also made ready to respond in the event of an emergency.

Related: Acid Rains Likely Due to Emission of NO2 from Fire Hit Container Ship X-Press Pearl

Also, due to the rough seas caused by the prevailing bad weather, the ship is now poised with a starboard list (lean to the right). As a result, some of the containers onboard have tumbled into the sea and some of which are believed to have sunk in waters. As such, the Navy cautions the fishing community engaging in fishing in the area to avoid this particular sea area.

Update 2- 25 May 2021

As per Sri Lankan Navy, an explosion was reported on the MV X-PRESS PEARL on Tuesday morning (May 25). All 25 crew members were evacuated safely out of the vessel, Captain Indika de Silva, the Navy Spokesperson told the media.



The distressed container ship was manned by a crew of 25, including seafarers from Philippines, China, India, and Russia.

Update 1- 24 May 2021

As per latest reports, it is clear that the fire has not been completely extinguished and an L.O.F Salvage contract has been signed with additional firefighting tugs being deployed to assist. General Average has also been declared.



Original Report- 20 May 2021

Fully cellular container vessel, X-PRESS PEARL, experienced a fire onboard whilst at anchor off Colombo port, Sri Lanka on 20th May 2021.

Sri Lankan Authorities mobilized fire fighting tug and Naval vessels to assist in bringing the fire under control and it is understood the fire is now completely extinguished. 

It is possible that General Average, Salvage and Recovery issues may arise as a result of this incident.



The Singapore Flagged, three-month old, 2700 TEU ship was sailing with 25 tonnes of Nitric Acid, several other chemicals, and cosmetics onboard, presently there are total 1,486 containers onboard. The vessel had departed from the port of Hazira, India on 15th May 2021.

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