The Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius is suddenly facing an environmental disaster after the grounded Wakashio began leaking bunker fuel.
The MV Wakashio ran aground off Pointe d’Esny, on the south-east coast of the island, on July 25 during a voyage from China to Brazil via Singapore on ballast.
The owner of the vessel, Nagashiki Shipping Co. of Japan, said a bunker tank has now been breached due weather.
“Due to the bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tanker has been breached and an amount of fuel oil has escaped into the sea. Oil prevention measures are in place and an oil boom has been deployed around the vessel,” Nagashiki said in an emailed statement to gCaptain.
Photos from the scene shows heavy fuel oil entering the lagoon surrounding the island.
?? Catastrophe écologique en cours à l’Île Maurice. Le MV Wakashio, un vraquier japonais transportant 200 tonnes de diesel et 3 800 tonnes de fuel, s’est échoué sur le récif le 26 juillet. Les autorités ont confirmé que du fuel s’échappe d’une fissure dans la coque. pic.twitter.com/jpn4tV8x2W
— Hugo Clément (@hugoclement) August 6, 2020
The ship was reported to be carrying 3,894 tonnes of low-sulphur fuel oil, 207 tonnes of diesel and 90 tonnes of lube oil, according to an earlier statement from Mauritius’ Minister of the Environment, Kavi Ramano.
“The Owner and its P+I Club have contracted a specialist oil response and salvage team who are coordinating with the Mauritian authorities to mitigate the effects of any pollution,” the statement from the ship owner said.
The vessel had 20 crew members when it grounded. Ten non-essential crew members were previously transferred from the vessel. Today’s update from the ship owner said all crew members are now being removed. All are reported safe, COVID-19 free, and are isolating to prevent the possible spread of the virus.
Smit Salvage has been contracted to respond along with local contractor CELERO. AIS ship tracking data shows two tugs, Stanford Hawk and BOKA Expedition, currently on scene.
Special interest is being paid to the Blue Bay Marine Park, a protected area just south of the grounding site.
The cause of the grounding is under investigation.
A police investigation has also now been initiated. According to authorities, the National Coast Guard (NCG) Radar Operators first spotted the Wakashio when it was 11.5 nautical miles offshore and took a “series of actions” to contact the vessel without success. It wasn’t until after the grounding that the Master communicated that the ship had lost control and grounded. No MAYDAY or distress signal was ever sent.
The Wakashio was built in 2007 by Universal Shipbuilding in Kawasaki, Japan. It has a deadweight of 203,130 tonnes and measures 300 meters in length. It is registered in Panama.