Sri Lanka unaware of ship carrying toxic wastes from the US: Officials

Colombo: Sri Lanka is not yet aware of the nature of hazardous materials on the cargo vessel that collided with a key Baltimore bridge last week as it was supposed to declare the contents of containers only 72 hours before the time of arrival into the Colombo Port, officials here said.

The Singapore-flagged container ship vessel Dali, which was mainly manned by an Indian crew, collided with the 2.6-km-long four-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Patapsco River in Baltimore in the early hours of March 26. The 984-foot cargo ship was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka. The ship was carrying 764 tonnes of hazardous materials as reported by the US media.

According to the information available, there are 57 containers with such toxic materials that can be categorized under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. The waste included mostly corrosives, flammables, miscellaneous hazardous materials, and Class-9 hazardous materials, including explosives & lithium-ion batteries – in 56 containers. So says the US National Transportation Safety Board, still ‘analyzing the ship’s manifest to determine what was onboard’ in its other 4,644 containers, Daily Mirror Online quoted the official as saying.

“Prior to Baltimore, Dali called at New York and Norfolk, Virginia, which has the world’s largest naval base. Colombo was to be its next scheduled call, going around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, taking 27 days, scheduled to land just after our New Year,” the official said.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Keith Bernard said the ship should declare the contents of containers only 72 hours before the time of arrival at the Colombo Port.

“The ship is supposed to arrive here on April 21, 2024. It means they are supposed to inform us by April 17 or so. There is enough time. If there are containers with hazardous items as declared by them, we will isolate such containers in accordance with protocols. As a major transhipment hub, we have a procedure set in place to deal with such containers. Most likely, these containers are meant for transhipment,” he said.

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