SL Minister’s claim India demanded money to assist 2 ships on fire false: India

By Susitha Fernando

Colombo, May 24 : The Indian High Commission in Colombo on Wednesday denied Sri Lankan Justice Minister’s claim that India demanded compensation or damages of INR 890 million from Sri Lankan government for the assistance provided during two fire incidents onboard MT New Diamond and MV Xpress Pearl in September 2020 and May-June 2021.

Issuing a statement, Indian High Commission in Colombo said that “India has not demanded any damages/compensation from government of Sri Lanka” and such reports are completely false and incorrect.

Participating in a TV talk show on Monday night, Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe had said that Sri Lanka has to pay INR 890 million to the Government of India for assisting Sri Lanka to control fires onboard MT New Diamond and X-Press Pearl in Sri Lankan waters.

Minister of Justice, Prisons Affairs and Constitutional Reforms, Rajapakshe has said that India has sought reimbursement in writing to the Sri Lankan government.

“The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN), Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) and, at our request, the Indian Navy worked together to douse the flames ravaging the New Diamond ship and to minimize the environmental damage. For the contribution made by the Indian Navy in this regard, they have sought INR 400 million, approximately LKR 1,400 million. These are not rumours.

“They have asked for INR 490 million for the X-Press Pearl and INR 400 million for the New Diamond,” the Minister had said.

Responding on the Minister’s claim the High Commission stated that Government of India immediately deployed ships of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) in response to specific requests from Sri Lanka Navy for providing expeditious assistance to fight the fire incidents onboard MT New Diamond and MV Xpress Pearl.

“Rescue operations conducted by these ships were instrumental in curtailing the hazardous effects of the two fire incidents and thereby limiting the damage on the maritime and marine environment of Sri Lanka.

“In line with ‘Polluter Pay Principle’ as per international norms, we have raised a claim for deployment, salvage activities and items/stores undertaken by these ships. Government of Sri Lanka has been requested to join our claims with that of the Sri Lankan side in the respective forum.

“It is emphasized that the request has been for presenting these claims to the Insurer/Owner for settlement and reimbursing the compensation received through established channels,” the High Commission clarified.

The High Commissioner reiterated that India has not demanded any damages/compensation from Government of Sri Lanka and immediate deployment of ships were done in line with ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and Security And Growth for All (S.A.G.A.R) doctrine.

On September 3, 2020, a fire erupted at the MT New Diamond, a tanker transporting 270,000 metric tons of crude oil from the port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip.

The ship was about 65 km off the eastern coast of Sri Lanka and at the time of the fire 1,700 metric tonnes of diesel required for the use of the tanker were also stored onboard.

One of the worst ever marine environmental disasters in the Indian ocean, on May 20, 2021, a Singapore-flagged container ship vessel MV X-Press Pearl, caught fire some 16km off Colombo.

The ship was transporting around 1,500 containers including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, other chemicals and low-density polyethylene pellets.

The fire that lasted for nearly two weeks caused in a massive spillage of damaged containers, microplastics, plastic pellets, chemicals and other harmful substances into the sea killing uncountable number of fishes and marine animals.

The vessel sank on June 2, 2021 while being towed away to deeper waters.

Sri Lanka has filed lawsuits demanding compensations against the owner of Press Pearl before Singapore courts.


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