GALLERY: Wakashio’s bow finally scuttled

Image credit: Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio

Dramatic scenes of the Wakashio’s bow being sent out to its final resting place were captured on Sunday, August 24th, as the front section of the broken up Capesize bulker was sunk in a planned operation in Mauritian waters.

The sinking of the stem section of the wreck was completed at around 3.30 pm on Sunday, as the bow was no longer visible on the sea surface, the National Crisis Committee said in an update.

The operation, which usually takes around 24hrs to complete, started on August 21, but was delayed by rough seas, and had to be temporarily suspended on Saturday night.

Japanese major MOL, the charterer of the Capesize bulker, owned by Nagashiki Shipping, confirmed on Tuesday the scuttling was completed.

“Owner was informed on August 24, that the forward half of the vessel has sunk within the Mauritian territorial waters after measures such as removing hydraulic oil by a team of experts in accordance with the instructions from the local authority and applicable law,” MOL said.

“Team of salvage experts appointed by Nagashiki, are in close dialogue with the local authority about the plan of safe removal plan of the stern part of the hull.”

Image credit: Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio

According to the National Crisis Committee, the remaining diesel oil on the aft section of the bulker was pumped out. A considerable amount of pollutants and other floating items have been further removed and this exercise is ongoing.

Furthermore, an international Invitation To Tender (ITT) for the removal of the aft section of the casualty has already been floated by the Special Casualty Representative.

Around 1,000 tonnes of oil are estimated to have leaked from the wreck, in what is considered the worst oil spill in the history of Mauritius.

Image credit: Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio

Oil spill containment measures are continuing, and activities are underway to remove artisanal booms with the deployment of 10 boats as well as the enlistment of the services of around 40 additional fishermen.

“1000 meters of absorbent booms has been relocated to Mahebourg Waterfront. Skimming operations and shoreline cleaning are continuously been carried out,” the committee said.

“The strategy for redeployment of booms is still under consideration with the consultation of local stakeholders and foreign experts.”

Two service providers Le Floch Dépollution and Polyeco have been entrusted with clean-up activities.

Based on the update, daily monitoring of air quality is still being continued by the National Environmental Laboratory.

As disclosed, test results have not revealed any volatile organic compound or petroleum odour at five schools and three residential areas. However, mild petroleum odour has been observed at Mahebourg Waterfront.

The analysis of sea water for oil and grease contents on the shoreline at 27 sites has shown no abnormality except at two sites, namely, Grand River South East (pH content) and Grand Port (oil and grease content)

Both Nagashiki and MOL have dispatched teams of experts to work together with the authorities and volunteers, to recover the oil from the sea and coastal areas in order to minimize the impact to the environment.

The companies have also dispatched additional equipment such as masks, protective suits, oil absorbents, etc.

“MOL will continue to work with the relevant authorities of Mauritius and Japan to mitigate the situation as soon as possible together with the shipowners,” MOL said.

The investigation into the grounding of the bulker, which subsequently split in two resulting in an oil spill is underway.

The Master and Chief Officer of Wakashio have been arrested by local authorities on charges of jeopardizing the safety of navigation.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has expressed growing concern for the welfare of the Wakashio’s crew.

Chair of the ITF’s Seafarers’ Section, David Heindel, said authorities and the public should not rush to blame the crew, but instead a proper investigation was needed, to take full account of contributing factors, including allegations that the ship had crew who were working beyond legal maximums.

“Whilst we await the outcome of the investigation, it is disturbing to read news of allegations that the crew of the Wakashio is responsible for the incident.”

“Anger for this tragedy is better directed at the factors which lead to such incidents, rather than the people who happen to be in the hotseat at the time the accident occurs.”

“It has been reported that most of the crew on the Wakashio were kept on board beyond their normal contractual terms. While it would be premature to speculate on the findings of ongoing investigations, it is appropriate to remember that during the present crew change crisis, we have warned of the threat to human life, property and the environment from an increasingly tired and fatigued global seafaring workforce.”

“We find it disturbing that many of the same governments which are rushing to condemn our industry for this incident, are often the same governments which have turned a blind eye to the humanitarian disaster which may very well have caused this event in the first place.”

“Governments cannot have it both ways: if they are concerned about the accidents which may result from a tired and fatigued workforce, then they must be concerned about getting those seafarers off and replaced with a fresh crew.”

“The tragedy of the Wakashio, its crew and the Mauritian people and environment is a reminder to us all of what can happen when tired and fatigued humans are expected to keep working indefinitely. It is not sustainable nor acceptable to have seafarers continue working to the detriment of their health and mental wellbeing: mistakes will happen. Accidents like this will happen!”

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