On July 25 of 2020, the 58-year old Indian Captain of the ill-fated newcastlemax Wakashio and his crew celebrated a crew member’s birthday. While the celebrations were going on, the MV Wakashio headed nearer towards the Mauritius coastline to get a WiFi signal. Captain Sunil Kumar stated in a report that the ship was sailing towards the coastline to get a phone signal, which he had done before while sailing through those waters. However, he added that he had not been in control of the Vessel at the time, and the Vessel was not on autopilot, and the weather was terrible.
With no one being in command of the Mv Wakashio, the Vessel, which had been heading to Brazil from Singapore, headed to Mauritius’s shores instead. A Mauritius coastguard repeatedly tried to reach the Vessel to caution that its course was dangerous. The official, however, received no reply from anyone on the ship. Due to the ship going off course, the Wakashio was less than 2 kilometers from Mauritius’s coast instead of the required 16 kilometers.
Ship Ran to the Ground
The Japanese-owned Vessel ran ground on a coral reef, Pointe d’Esny, while carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil. Pointe d’Esny is a refuge for extraordinary wildlife. The ship did not send an SOS when it ran ground, neither did anyone respond to the coastguard attempts to get in touch. On August 6th, the Wakashio cracked and started leaking oil due to massive waves pounding it for several days. The Vessel leaked some 1180 tonnes of its fuel cargo into the turquoise waters of the Mahebourg Lagoon. Additionally, the ship spilled oil onto mangrove forests and protected wetlands of which tourists and honeymooners visit. The prime minister of Mauritania declared a state of emergency and pleaded for international assistance.
The MV Wakashio Splits in Two
Over the days, the MV Wakashio split in half, and the bow of the ship was towed away from the reef separately. The rear part of the boat, on the other hand, remains stranded on the reef. A remainder of 3000 tonnes of fuel were pumped off the ship before it split into two. Local authorities were asked to explain why they didn’t take immediate action to empty the Vessel before it began to spill oil. However, the prime minister of Mauritius said in a statement that bad weather caused the slow response.
The ship’s Captain, Mr. Sunil Kumar, and his first officer were arrested and charged with endangering safe navigation. Mr. Sunil appeared in a district court in the Nations Capital Port Louis to hear the charges.
Nagashiki shipping, the owner of the MV Wakashio, stated that it would investigate why the ship went off course. Additionally, the Firm sent experts to Mauritius to help clean up the damage caused by the spill. Furthermore, the company pledged that it would respond to requests from Mauritius seeking compensation. Some volunteers from Mauritius took matters into their own hands and made barriers against the oil called booms. Some experts from France and the United Nations are also involved in the cleanup work. Meanwhile, the UN Development Program allocated $200,000 to address the immediate impact of the spill.