A Japanese-owned tanker that ran aground off Mauritius’ shores and spilled oil over pristine waters and fragile coral reefs will be scuttled, Mauritius National Crisis Committee said on August 19, Reuters reported.
Earlier on August 19 Nagashiki Shipping, owner of the MV Wakashio, apologised for the incident. Two of the ship’s officers were arrested overnight on charges of endangering safe navigation.
The captain, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, was reportedly arraigned in a district court in the country’s capital, Port Louis, on the charge of endangering the safe navigation of a vessel, an offence under Mauritian maritime laws, the NYT reported. Nandeshwar, an Indian national, was arrested alongside the chief officer of the ship, Tilak Ratna Suboda, a Sri Lankan.
On July 25 MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the south-east coast. It began spilling oil on August 6, prompting the government to announce a state of environmental emergency. It leaked more than 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil in the Indian Ocean, endangering corals, affecting fish and other marine life in what some scientists have called the country’s worst ecological disaster. Emergency crews removed most of the ship’s remaining oil before it split apart on August 15.
Mauritius National Crisis Committee said on August 19 it planned to scuttle the ship’s remains at sea at a yet to be determined date. It would do so in a way that would avoid further pollution or interfere with maritime routes, Reuters quoted it as saying in a statement.
The authorities have been receiving support from countries including France and India. The Mauritius National Crisis Committee said it had taken in recommendations from various groups on how and where to sink the ship to conform with advice of French experts present on the island, it said.
The island nation of about 1.3 million people is still grappling with how to protect its world-renowned coral reefs and crystal-clear lagoons after the spill.
Mauritius is known for its picturesque beaches, coral reefs, and forests with rich biodiversity. Tourism is a key pillar of its economy which was affected by Covid-19.
The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) was hired by the vessel’s insurers, Japan P&I Club, and is working with the Mauritian government.