Oil carrier bound for India catches fire off Sri Lanka

Crew prepare for fire drill on board a vessel. Credit: Thome Ship Management

A very large crude carrier (VLCC) under a charter hire of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) caught fire off the east coast of Sri Lanka while sailing to India. The blaze became known at about 8 am India time on 3 September 2020, according to local media reports.

New Diamond, built in 2000, was reportedly on its way from the Mina Al Ahmadi port in Kuwait to the Paradip port, a major gateway on India’s east coast. Paradip is located about 210 nautical miles (389 km) south of Kolkata, where the IOC has an oil refinery.

The Panama-registered oil carrier was loaded with approximately 2 million barrels of oil, and the number of crew on board was pegged at 23.

“The Sri Lanka Air Force have scrambled an observation aircraft and the navy have sent in two ships to help with rescue efforts,” a Sri Lankan official said earlier in the day.

The latest reports said the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) also joined the search-and-rescue action.

“ICG ships Shaurya, Sarang, Samudra Paheredar, and Dornier aircraft have been diverted for firefighting on oil tanker MT New Diamond 37 nautical miles east off [the] Sri Lanka coast,” the ICG tweeted.

Sources said the fire has been controlled and extinguished by the rescue team. According to an unconfirmed report, the incident has left one crew member missing and another injured.

The cause of the fire and details of the damage were not immediately known.