A Sri Lankan Navy boat sprays water on the New Diamond, a very large crude carrier (VLCC) chartered by Indian Oil Corp (IOC), that was carrying the equivalent of about 2 million barrels of oil, after a fire broke out off east coast of Sri Lanka September 8, 2020 (Sri Lankan Airforce media/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo).

A salvage team is still trying to plug a fuel leak from the fire-stricken New Diamond oil supertanker, Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Indika de Silva said on Friday.

The tanker, which is carrying the about 2 million barrels of oil, caught fire on September 3 and is currently 45 nautical miles (83 km), off Sri Lanka’s east coast.

The fire has been extinguished but the New Diamond has left two long trails of fuel oil after the Navy towed it out to sea.

Authorities want to avoid damage to the coast line like that suffered by Mauritius after the Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on July 25 and began spilling oil on August 6.

“Salvage operations are continuing. The engine room has been de-smoked. They have identified the bunker oil tank that is leaking. The next step is to empty it and then to repair the leak,” de Silva said.

He said the cargo of crude oil remains intact. The stricken vessel has raised fears of an environmental disaster.

Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) has said it plans to take action against the ship’s owner under the country’s laws to protect the marine ecosystem.

A fire broke out in the engine room of the Greek-owned New Diamond tanker on Sept. 3. The fire was believed to have been extinguished on Sunday but reignited a day later.

The very large crude carrier was chartered by Indian Oil Corp to import oil to Paradip in eastern India from Kuwait.

New Shipping Ltd, the manager of the Panama-flagged New Diamond, has appointed SMIT Singapore Pte Ltd to lead salvage operations.

(Reuters)