UPDATE 1-Sri Lanka seeks at least $1.9 mln damage from owner of fire-hit tanker

COLOMBO/ NEW DELHI, Sept 16- Sri Lanka is seeking at least 340 million rupees from the owner of the stricken oil supertanker New Diamond for assistance given to the vessel since it caught fire on Sept. 3, the coordinating officer to the country’s attorney general said. Greece- based Porto Emporios Shipping Inc is the registered owner of the 20- year old Panama-…

By Waruna Karunatilake and Nidhi Verma

COLOMBO/NEW DELHI, Sept 16 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka is seekingat least 340 million rupees ($1.9 million) from the owner of thestricken oil supertanker New Diamond for assistance given to thevessel since it caught fire on Sept. 3, the coordinating officerto the country’s attorney general said.

Nishara Jayaratne said the cost was for services providedby various departments including the Sri Lankan navy, air force,ports authority and Marine Environment Protection Authority,among others, up until Sept. 15.

The fully-loaded vessel is still in Sri Lankan waters,although the fire was completely doused last week.

Greece-based Porto Emporios Shipping Inc is the registeredowner of the 20-year old Panama-flagged very large crudecarrier, according to Refinitiv data. New Shipping Ltd is themanager of the vessel.

The vessel is chartered by Indian Oil Corp toimport 2 million barrels of oil from Kuwait to Paradip ineastern India.

The supertanker was about 90 nautical miles (167 kilometers)from Batticaloa, the eastern province of Sri Lankan, Navyspokesman Indika de Silva said.

“We decided to let the salvage master do his job with norestrictions from us on maintaining distance. There is strongcurrent in the area that pulls ship further away. Its hard topull it back closer to land due to the heavy current,” de Silvatold Reuters.

The ship has left long trails of marine oil slicks.

De Silva said all Indian vessels engaged in dousing the fireand subsequent activities had left Sri Lanka this afternoon.

He also said the $1.9 million claim was a preliminary sum,as the Sri Lankan Navy was still engaged in the operation.

New Shipping Ltd has appointed SMIT Singapore Pte Ltd tolead salvage operations.

Salvagers have already vacated the ruptured tank in theengine room and transferred the dirty water into the ballastsection.

($1 = 184.9000 Sri Lankan rupees)(Editing by Mark Potter)

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