Huge cracks have appeared in MV Wakashio, the stricken ship that has caused a huge oil spill in Mauritius, prompting fears the ship will break up.
While almost all the remaining fuel on the vessel has now been successfully pumped out, according to Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, some fuel still remains on board.
The Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier, operated by Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines, struck a reef on the southeastern shores of Mauritius on July 25. Fuel began leaking from the vessel on August 6.
It is estimated around 1,000 of the 4,000 tonnes of oil and diesel aboard had emptied into the surrounding ocean, before salvors successfully removed the rest of the bunker fuel from the stricken vessel. The fuel has been transferred by helicopter to another ship owned by the same Japanese firm, Nagashiki Shipping.
Local reports give the location of the crash as Pointe d’Esny; an area famous for its coral reefs and white-sand beaches. Officials and conservationists say thousands of species are now at risk in the pristine waters that surround the island nation, including the Blue Bay Marine Park.
Prime Minister Jugnauth declared a state of national environmental emergency on August 7, and France has sent assistance from nearby Reunion Island. Japan has dispatched a six-person disaster-relief team.
Police in Mauritius have been granted a search warrant, which allows them to take away items such as the ship’s log book, to help with the ongoing investigation into how the ship became grounded. The captain is assisting with the investigations.
Akihiko Ono, vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines, said: “We apologise profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” adding the company “will do everything in our power to resolve the issue.”
Throughout the week, local volunteers have been patrolling the coastline, attempting to fabricate floating barriers from plastic bottles, sugar cane leaves, and straw, in an attempt to prevent the slick from causing further damage.
Mauritius, a country of 1.3 million that relies heavily on tourism and has been heavily impacted by Covid, has appealed to the United Nations for aid.
Local NGO Eco-Sud is collecting funds to provide emergency relief. Details can be found at: www.crowdfund.mu/mauritius-oil-spill-cleaning-2020-mv-wakashio-306.html