The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka on Saturday said Indian naval ship, INS Sarvekshak, has surveyed 800 miles of the sea near the Colombo Port and a findings report has been sent to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Fisheries to resume safe navigation and commercial fishing. The survey was necessitated in the aftermath of Singapore-flagged cargo vessel MV X-Press Pearl catching fire and sinking in these water earlier in June. The study aimed to identify underwater debris which could pose a threat to mariners and fishermen.
“Ship Sarvekshak surveying around #MVXPressPearl off #Colombo entered Colombo harbour, post completion of 800 miles of side scan #Sonar survey. The ship was welcomed by the Commander of Western Naval Area," the high commission wrote on Twitter. INS Sarvekshak, described as a state-of-the-art Hydrographic Survey Ship, was dispatched by the Indian Navy on June 23 upon a formal request from the Government of Sri Lanka to conduct a joint safety study along with the Sri Lanka Navy and National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency in the waters near and along major navigation routes off the Colombo harbour.
At a felicitation ceremony on Friday, High Commissioner of India Gopal Baglay handed over the ‘fairsheet’ of the survey to Minister of Fisheries Douglas Devananda. The ‘fairsheet’ has identified 54 underwater debris and one ship-wreck. The survey data will be used to issue advisories to mariners and fishermen and also to salvors when removing debris, the Colombo Page online news portal reported.
Minister Devananda thanked the Indian government for quick response to their call for a joint study. He lauded India for its vision SAGAR (Safety and Growth for All In the Region), according to the daily. The continued assistance to Sri Lanka in recent maritime incidents has showcased India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, the High Commission said.
INS Sarvekshak surveyed 807 miles of the sea using side scan sonar technology, integral sensors and two survey boats, the news website said. The ship’s team worked day and night to process the data to meet the urgent requirements. The felicitation ceremony was attended by State Minister of Fisheries Kanchana Wijesekara, Secretary of Ministry of Fisheries R M Rathnayaka and Chairman Sri Lanka Port Control Captain Nihal Keppetipola.
Cargo ship MV X-Press Pearl was carrying 1,486 containers of chemicals and cargo when it went up in flames on May 21 near the Colombo Port. The Sri Lankan Navy, Airforce and the Indian Coast Guard jointly doused the fire in an operation that took days. However, the ship sank off the country’s coast on June 17.
Apart from the 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, the ship was loaded with 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid. Environmentalists have dubbed it as one the worst ecological disasters in the country’s history.