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Mauritius faces environmental disaster as shipwrecked tanker leaks oil

07 August 2020

The Government of Mauritius announced on August 6 that an oil tanker which had run ashore on the island nation’s southeast coast in July had started to leak oil, sparking fears of an environmental disaster.

Pointe d'Esny - Image: Wikimedia
Pointe d'Esny - Image: Wikimedia

The MV Wakashio, which is Panamanian-flagged but owned by a Japanese company, ran aground on July 25 at Pointe d’Esny. Its crew was evacuated safely but the ship began to break up in rough seas and oil started to leak from the vessel.

In a statement, the environment ministry said, “The ministry has been informed … that there is a breach in the vessel MV Wakashio and there is a leakage of oil. The public in general, including boat operators and fishers, are requested not to venture on the beach and in the lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg.”

Government ministers were quoted by local media as saying the Indian Ocean island nation is facing an environmental crisis and that the country is not adequately prepared for such a incident.

Images posted on social media show the tanker with slicks of oil spreading way from it into the ocean. Fortunately, the ship was not carrying a payload when it ran aground in July, however it was carrying around 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of bunker fuel. There are fears that if rough seas continue to break the ship apart, then all the diesel and bunker fuel could leak into the Indian Ocean.

Local media have reported that the ship is grounded at Pointe d’Esny which is near the marine park of Blue Ray. The environment ministry said that anti-pollution systems had been sent to two locations. Mauritius has asked the French island of La Reunion for assistance in tackling the spill. The island nation is heavily dependent on the surrounding Indian Ocean for food and tourism.

Nagashiki Shipping, the owner of the MV Wakashio, said in a statement that it was monitoring the situation. “Nagashiki Shipping takes its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously and with partner agencies and contractors will make every effort to protect the marine environment and prevent further pollution. The cause of the incident will be fully investigated, and the owner and manager will continue to work closely with the authorities to determine cause,” it said.

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