The Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl was a brand-new container ship, only three months after being commissioned, when a fire erupted and began sinking off Sri Lanka’s western coast on May 20, 2021. The vessel, laden with 25 metric tons of nitric acid, lay in the dark seabed about 20 meters (66 feet) deep, and salvagers had to battle rough seas to cut it into three pieces in order to lift the wreck. One and a half years since the sinking, the X-Press Pearl was brought out of the depths of the ocean after its corroded aft section was successfully lifted into a barge in mid-January.
But the filing of a claim for compensation for potential environmental damage caused by the maritime disaster has not yet materialized. The law requires action to be filed within two years of the incident and this leaves Sri Lanka with less than four months to initiate legal action, a process that is expected to be painstakingly complex, says Dan Malika Gunasekera, an authority on the law of the sea and maritime law.