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Sri Lanka receives US$ 10 million so far as compensation for X-Press Pearl Disaster

By: Staff Writer

May 12, Colombo (LNW): Sri Lanka government is still to claim the exact amount of compensation for the massive marine pollution caused to the country from X-Press Pearl ship disaster 2years and 11 months ago although  it can claim damages  amounting  to around $6,4 billion, official sources said.  

According to the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), the MV X-Press Pearl’s cargo contained 1,486 shipping containers. Of those, 81 were classified as dangerous goods, such as nitric acid and caustic soda.

The others have been reported to contain a mixture of several tonnes of potentially toxic epoxy resin, plastics, and oil, as well as metals such as lead and copper.

Sri Lanka has confirmed receiving further compensation of US$1.3 million from X-Press Pearl ship insurers for state beach cleaning program conducted to clear up the debris from its biggest marine disaster in history, to prevent environmental damage, Maritime Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) confirmed

The Government has allocated $ 10 million so far to cover legal expenses incurred by the Attorney General’s (AG) Department in the MV X-Press Pearl case filed in a Singaporean court last year to claim damages resulting from the ship disaster in May 2021.

However, despite the allocation, the AG’s Department is yet to submit the final compensation figure for the damages.

The total of around $ 10 million had been received by the government as interim payment made by the vessel’s insurers and ship owners to cover beach cleanup activities and compensate fishermen affected by the disaster Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa said.

Sri Lanka Treasury has received $890,000 and 16 million Sri Lankan rupees (around $49,200 dollars) as interim payment for costs incurred by the Maritime Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) and for the affected fisherfolks,” the Minister said.

Since the disaster occurred, Sri Lanka has accepted payments totaling $7.85 million. The government received the first payment of $3.6 million in July 2021. Another $1.75 million followed in January 2022, and a third payment of $2.5 million given in September same year.

Sri Lanka initially filed for a compensation claim of $40 million shortly after the vessel sank off Colombo in June 2021. However, a 40-member expert committee convened by MEPA put the price of the environmental disaster at $6.4 billion in an interim report early this year.

On April 25, Sri Lanka announced that it had formally filed legal action before Singapore’s International Commercial Courts (SICC) to claim compensation for the massive environmental damage. At the time of the disaster, X-Press Pearl was registered in Singapore and operated by the container line X-Press Feeders.

The choice of filing suit in Singapore was controversial, as a Singaporean court could limit the total liability of the shipowner to the value of the vessel, about $14 million. If the suit had been filed in Sri Lankan courts, national environmental-protection laws would have applied, and the potential damage claim could have been higher.

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