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Accident date
Sri Lanka
Accident area
Indian Ocean
Spill area
Cause of spill
Structural damage
Quantity transported
6 500 tonnes
Nature of pollutant
sulphuric acid
Quantity spilled
6 500 tonnes
Ship / structure type
Chemical tanker
Built date
112 m
19 m
6 m

The incident

On 6th April 2009, in the Indian Ocean, the Turkish chemical tanker Granba emitted a distress signal as it travelled with its cargo of 6,500 tonnes of sulphuric acid between the Indian ports of Tuticorin and Kakinada. The Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) responded to the call and approached the vessel, aboard which inspection revealed leaks of sulphuric acid from damaged tanks which were overflowing into the ballast tanks.


The response

The 19 crew members, who had abandoned ship, were recovered safe and sound by the SLN. Meanwhile, it was decided that the chemical tanker should be taken away from the ecologically sensitive coastal areas (fish spawning grounds, coral reefs) pending salvage operations. First towed by a vessel belonging to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, then by a second vessel belonging to Tsavliris Salvage, the Granba showed an increasing list. Its trim was rapidly deteriorating and the vessel sank with its cargo on 9th April in waters 3,500 metres deep, some 80 nautical miles off Trincomalee (Sri Lanka).

While the Sri Lankan authorities had a national oil spill contingency plan, such a large-scale spill of acid remained unforeseen. It raised questions on the potential effects of the product on the area surrounding the wreck.

Upon request by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) was commissioned to conduct a risk assessment for the marine environment, who conclusions would provide a basis for making recommendations in terms of water safety.


Legal proceedings

After the ship had sunk, the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) filed a complaint with the Trincomalee Harbour Police to initiate legal proceedings. Under the Marine Pollution Prevention Act, the MEPA also called for the Criminal Investigation Department to proceed with a criminal liability case, with a potential fine of between 1 and 15 million Indian Rupees.



In compliance with article 50 of the Marine Pollution Prevention Act, the Attorney General was mandated by MEPA's legal department. The verdict was delivered in May 2010, ordering the accused to pay a fine of 10 million Sri Lanka Rupees. In addition, MEPA received $50,000 (equivalent to 5.6 million Sri Lanka Rupees) from the accused in civil liability as an out-of-court settlement.



-       Sea & Shore Technical Newsletter, 2009, n°26

-       Sunday Times, Preventing marine pollution our task: MEPA head, 20 June 2010

-       Sri Lanka Ministry of Environment, Annual Report 2010 of Marine Environment Protection Authority, 36 p



Last update on 22/06/2018
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