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Sri Lanka braces for oil spill from sinking cargo vessel

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Sri Lanka braces for oil spill from sinking cargo vessel:


Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl, carrying chemicals and plastic, has been in news since a fire incident on May 20 and subsequent explosion aboard, following which tonnes of plastic pellet deposits were found deposited along Sri Lanka’s beaches.


The country’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), which termed the incident one of Sri Lanka’s worst ecological disasters in history, has readied oil spill containment booms, to tackle a possible leak from the vessel that officials said carried 350 tonnes of oil in its fuel tanks.

What is an oil spill?

OECD defines an oil spill as oil, discharged accidentally or intentionally, that floats on the surface of water bodies as a discrete mass and is carried by the wind, currents and tides.

  • Oil spills can pollute land, air, or water, though it is mostly used for oceanic oil spills.

Effects of oil spills:

Ecosystem Destruction: Oil spills can have a major impact on the temporary animal and fish loss of habitat. Heavy oils may affect several organism functions like respiration, feeding, and thermo-regulation.

It can affect living beings in case of direct contact with the environment polluted with spilled oil components (some of which may persist a long time), such as drinking polluted water or breathing polluted dust particles.

Effects on flora: If the oil washes into coastal marshes, mangrove forests, or other wetlands, fibrous plants and grasses absorb oil, which can damage plants and make the area unsuitable as wildlife habitat.

On Marine Organisms: Oil spills frequently kill marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, seals, and sea otters.

On Birds: Oil spills also damage nesting grounds, potentially causing serious long-term effects on entire species.

Effects of oil spills on economy:

On Economy:

  1. If beaches and populated shorelines are fouled, tourism and commerce may be severely affected.
  2. The power plants and other utilities that depend on drawing or discharging sea water are severely affected by oil spills.
  3. Major oil spills are frequently followed by the immediate suspension of commercial fishing.

Methods through which oil spill can be cleaned:

Containment Booms: Floating barriers, called booms are used to restrict the spread of oil and to allow for its recovery, removal, or dispersal.

Skimmers: are devices used for physically separating spilled oil from the water’s surface.

Sorbents: Various sorbents (e.g., straw, volcanic ash, and shavings of polyester-derived plastic) that absorb the oil from the water are used.

Dispersing agents: These are chemicals that contain surfactants, or compounds that act to break liquid substances such as oil into small droplets. They accelerate its natural dispersion into the sea.

Bio-agents: Nutrients, enzymes, or microorganisms such as Alcanivorax bacteria or Methylocella silvestris that increase the rate at which natural biodegradation of oil occurs are added.


Insta Curious:

 Do you know about the largest marine oil spill in history, Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill? Read Here

Sources: the Hindu.



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