The government will submit an initial claim for US$ 50 million as compensation from the owners/insurance agents of the X-Press Pearl vessel, which was destroyed in a blaze in Sri Lankan territorial waters, a top government official said.
The Marine Environment Protection Authority has been informed that the Attorney General, in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, has obtained approval of the Cabinet to file civil action in Singapore.
A three-member Expert Advisory Panel has been appointed to expedite the civil action on MV X-Press Pearl disaster that occurred on 19 May 2021, where the vessel finally sank near Bopitiya, North of Colombo.
The Marine Environment Protection Authority’s (MEPA) newly-appointed Chairman, Asela B. Rekawa, has appointed the expert advisory panel, in view of the impending expiration of the prescription period of two years from the date of the MV X-Pearl incident and the paramount importance of speedy action on 23 January 2023.
The expert legal advisory panel is to extend views with regard to the specific matters, such as considering the prescription period and giving their opinion on the possible and probable repercussions caused by any delay in filing suitable action, whether a letter of demand should be sent to the ship owners
They will advise the MEPA on whether the MEPA needs to submit a claim to the insurance company, whether it is better suited to file action in Sri Lanka than in Singapore or both countries and the best possible approach and counsel to appear on behalf of MEPA.
Sri Lanka has received $2.5 million in the third interim payment for the impacts caused by the sinking of the X-Press Pearl cargo vessel off the country’s western coast 14 months ago.
This is the third tranche of compensation, but Sri Lankan authorities say a much larger claim for the environmental damage is still to be filed.
The latest payment brings the total paid by the ship’s insurer to $7.85 million. Sri Lanka received $3.6 million in July 2021, shortly after the June 2 sinking that was caused by a fire on board the Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl, and another $1.75 million in January last year .
The two experts in the field of Law and Maritime Law include President’s Counsel Roland Perera PC and Dr. Dan Malika Gunasekera.
As per Section 50 of the Marine Pollution Act No. 35 of 208, the prosecution of a criminal matter should be carried out by the official of the Attorney General and all cases should be filed in the High Court, as per Section 48, subsequent to the fire onboard the ship incident which occurred on or about 20 May 2021.
The MEPA said it submitted the file to the Attorney General seeking advice on necessary action. The criminal matter is handled by DSG Madhawa Thennakoon and the Civil Case is handled by ASG Vikum de Abrew.