The UK High Court has warned that the clock is ticking for loss and damage claims to be lodged from the catastrophic X-Press Pearl fire off Sri Lanka in 2021.

A court notice said all claims must be made before 27 January next year.

The 2,743-teu boxship (built 2021) sank off the coast of Colombo after it was overcome by a massive cargo fire that continued for nearly two weeks in May two years ago.

A general limitation decree was made on 3 July in the Admiralty Court of England and Wales after an application was made by operator X-Press Feeders of Singapore, the notice reveals.

Any application to set this aside must also be made by 27 January.

X-Press Feeders and other stakeholders have also set up a limitation fund by paying into the High Court £19.99m ($24.4m), through a 2022 letter of undertaking from insurer London P&I Club.

The vessel had only just been delivered from a Chinese shipyard when the accident happened.

The accident is Sri Lanka’s worst-ever maritime pollution incident.

Around 11,000 tonnes of tiny plastic nurdles washed up on Sri Lanka’s beaches damaging the local and marine environment.

There was also 348 tonnes of bunker fuel on the ship.

As of February this year, around $5m in compensation has been paid out, mostly to the local fishing industry, which was badly affected by the incident.

Indictments Issued

Eight people, including the ship’s Russian master, were indicted over the casualty.

The Sri Lanka Marine Environment Protection Authority has claimed environmental damage could run into billions of US dollars and is seeking further compensation.

The vessel’s protection and indemnity insurance was placed with the London P&I Club, while the Swedish Club led its hull and machinery cover.