Mauritius police arrests Master, Chief Officer of ill-fated bulker Wakashio
The Master and Chief Officer of Wakashio, a grounded bulk carrier that split in two off Mauritius and caused an ecological disaster, have been arrested by local authorities.
On 18 August, the Mauritius Police Force (MPF) arrested the two men on charges of jeopardizing the safety of navigation, Japanese shipping companies Nagashiki Shipping and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), the ship’s owner and charterer, confirmed.
Although the cause of the incident is still being investigated, unconfirmed reports emerged that the crew was celebrating a crewmember’s birthday and approached the Mauritius coastline as they were searching for a wifi signal.
Wakashio ran aground on the coral reef off Pointe d’Esny on 25 July with approximately 3,800 tonnes of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) on board and 200 tonnes of diesel oil. At least 1,000 tonnes of fuel is believed to have leaked into the ocean.
A team of specialists continues to work on recovering the remaining oil from the sea and coastal areas in order to minimize the impact on the environment, according to MOL.
Meanwhile, towing operation of the bow section of the bulk carrier has been launched. The section is being taken eight nautical miles from the outer limit of the reef at 2000mts depth. The stern section remains aground on the reef as there is still some residual oil in the engine room to be pumped out. Inclement weather has delayed the operation.
As the grounding occurred in an environmentally sensitive area, near to a marine park and wetland sites of international importance, the incident has been described by Greenpeace Africa as “the island’s worst ecological disaster” which should prompt the shipping industry’s transition from fossil to green fuels.