Salvage starts on grounded Wakashio

A salvage operation to remove bulk carrier Wakashio from Pointe d’Esny is now under way. Credit: Le Mauricien Journal d’information et d’opinions

A salvage operation is under way to remove bulk carrier MV Wakashio, which grounded on a reef off Pointe d’Esny, southeast Mauritius on 25 July.

Minister of the Environment Kavi Ramano reported to the Mauritian parliament on 28 July 2020 that the vessel’s hull was intact, which would make it easier to re-float, but that a ruptured hose had flooded the engine room.

“My ministry, in line with the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, has already established contact with authorities in Reunion via the French embassy for support as part of the POLMAR Plan whenever the need arises. It is to be noted that such a request is triggered in the event of any major spill of the order of 10 metric tons and above,” he said. But in terms of pollution risk, the minister said that although the vessel was not carrying any cargo, it had 3,894 tonnes of low-sulphur fuel oil, 207 tonnes of diesel, and 90 tonnes of lubricant oil on board.

There were no signs of oil spillage, but traces of hydrocarbons have been found on algae over an area of 300 metres. These are believed to have come from the engine room. In addition, booms have been laid as a precautionary measure to prevent any oil spillage into the nearby Blue Bay Marine Park, a protected area that is a short distance south of the grounding site.

Ramano said that Smit Salvage, working with local ship’s agent and logistics provider Celero, had been appointed to re-float the vessel and contain and manage any pollution. He added two tugs would be involved in the operation, one of which is coming from South Africa and the other from Singapore. The latter, carrying oil spill response equipment, was expected on site on 29 July.

Dave Wisse, senior commercial manager at Smit Salvage, confirmed the company’s appointment to SAS, but said “other than that we are afraid that we can’t release any information on the project or planning”. Wakashio was heading to Brazil from Singapore when the casualty occurred on 25 July. All 20 crew members are currently remaining on board.

The vessel owners and managers, Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd.(Nagashiki Shipping) released the following statement;

“Nagashiki Shipping, provides the following update on the grounding of the vessel off the east coast of the island of Mauritius at approximately 1925 hrs, local time, Jul 25. Due to the bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tank of the vessel 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. ITOPF (International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation) is advising the owner, salvage team and the Government on the pollution and possible effects.

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. Nagashiki Shipping takes its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously and will take every effort with partner agencies and contractors to protect the marine environment and prevent further pollution. The situation is being closely monitored and in view of poor sea conditions, salvage efforts are currently on hold. The decision has been made to remove the crew from the vessel, who are all safe and have been transferred to the shore. The cause of the incident will be fully investigated, and the Owner/Manager will continue to work closely with the authorities to determine the cause.”