Sri Lankan police officials have confirmed that the captain of a foreign-flagged containership that had caught fire and ended up partially sunk off Colombo late last month has been placed under arrest but was later released on bail.
Vitaly Tyutkalo, a Russian national, has been accused of violating the Marine Pollutions Prevention Act after his ship, the Singaporean-flagged X-Press Pearl, began to sink on June 2, raising fears of possible oil and chemical spills in the fragile marine environment off the Sri Lankan capital.
Mr Tyutkalo was arrested on Monday, June 14, but later posted bail set at LKR2 million (US$10,107).
The ship had around 350 tonnes of oil in its fuel tanks and cargo that included nitric acid and other chemicals when it caught fire while anchored 16 kilometres off Colombo on May 20. The ensuing blaze raged for several days despite a sustained firefighting effort by a number of local and foreign agencies including the Indian Coast Guard.
As of Saturday, June 12, X-Press Pearl‘s stern remains lodged on the seabed at a depth of 21 metres while the rest of the vessel remains above the surface.
A local environmental group has claimed the incident resulted in over 150 kilometres of Sri Lankan coastline being covered with microplastic particles, prompting a cleanup operation that is still ongoing.
Officials clarified that formal charges against Mr Tyutkalo have yet to be filed. Although out on bail, he remains in the country and is due to re-appear before the Colombo High Court on July 1.
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