Wakashio owner to question crew over incident

The Wakashio bulk carrier that ran aground and has broken into two parts near Blue Bay Marine Park, Mauritius. Credit: AFP via Getty Images

The crew of Wakashio will be questioned by the shipowner and manager as investigations begin into the accident that caused the Capesize bulk carrier to finally break up over the weekend.

Wakashio ran aground on a reef on the southeastern side of Mauritius on 25 July 2020, close to the Point d’Esny Wetlands, the Ile aux Aigrettes Nature Reserve, the Blue Bay Marine Area, and the Mahebourg Fishing Reserves.

A crack in cargo hold No. 8 to the stern side worsened over time, and at 2 pm local time on 15 August, the vessel broke into two.

In a statement sent to SAS, shipowner and manager Nagashiki Shipping said that the crew members are being questioned by the authorities as part of the investigation process.

Nagashiki Shipping said, “Thereafter, the owner and manager of the vessel, will be able to start interviewing the crew members. The cause of the incident is not known and will be fully investigated. The owner and manager will continue to work closely with the authorities to determine the cause.”

While the media in Mauritius and Japan have reported that the crew of Wakashio had allegedly deviated from the original course in order to get Wi-Fi connections for a crew member’s birthday party, Nagashiki Shipping’s representative told SAS that questions relating to the cause or alleged activity will be handled as part of the official investigation.

The representative said, “In order to avoid any speculation, the cause of the incident is not known and will be fully investigated. Nagashiki Shipping will continue to work closely with the authorities to determine the cause.

“At this time, the primary focus is to recover the remaining oil from the sea and coastal areas and minimise the impact and to protect the environment.”

Nagashiki Shipping said that the wreckage is being continuously assessed by a team of industry experts.

A towage plan will be implemented to tow the forward part of the vessel. The salvage will be carried out in compliance with regulation and in line with the local authorities’ guidance. Also, about 100 metric tonnes of lubricant oil and residual oil on board the vessel had been collected as of 14 August.

An amount of unrecoverable oil is believed to have leaked out of the vessel. In order to collect and clean up the oil, booms and absorbents have been deployed to prevent the oil reaching the shore.

The Mauritius government is seeking compensation from Nagashiki Shipping which, with Wakashio charterer Mitsui OSK Lines, has also sent its staff to the site for the damage caused to marine life as a result of the oil spill.

Specialists continue to work on recovering the remaining oil from the sea and coastal areas in order to minimise the impact to the environment. Nagashiki Shipping has appointed an expert team to work closely with the authorities and local volunteers.

When the vessel ran aground, it had about 3,800 metric tonnes of very-low-sulphur fuel oil and 200 metric tonnes of diesel oil on board. The remaining quantity on board, which is about 3,000 metric tonnes of oil, has been recovered and transferred to small tankers on 12 August.