Grounded bulker in Mauritius to be refloated

Wakashio (Photo: Nagashiki Shipping)

Authorities in Mauritius and a number of foreign salvage companies will embark on an operation to refloat a cargo vessel that had run aground on a reef off the Indian Ocean island country on Saturday, July 25.

Owned by Japan’s Nagashiki Shipping, the Panamanian-flagged 203,130DWT bulk carrier Wakashio had been sailing from China to Brazil when it struck a shallow area near Pointe Desny in southeastern Mauritius at approximately 19:30 local time on Saturday.

No injuries have been reported from the incident.

Smit Salvage and its local partner, Celero, have been selected to lead the refloating effort, which will also involve companies based in South Africa and Singapore.

Local officials said that, due to the severe weather conditions in the area, it remains unclear when the actual refloating operation on Wakashio will begin.

The vessel was not carrying any cargo when it ran aground. However, its fuel tanks were reported to still contain nearly 4,000 tonnes of low sulphur fuel oil as well as diesel and lube oil.

In a recent statement addressed to the Mauritius parliament, Mr Kavi Ramano, the country’s minister of environment, assured that the vessel’s hull showed no signs of damage and that no oil spills have been detected.

The minister added that containment booms have nonetheless been placed around the ship as a precautionary measure to prevent any oil from leaking into the waters of Blue Bay Marine Park, a nearby marine protected area.

The Mauritius National Coast Guard claims it had contacted Wakashio‘s captain earlier on Saturday to warn him to change course as there were shallow areas along the vessel’s planned route. The captain insisted that the route was safe enough and that he will continue sailing along it instead.

Minutes after the exchange over the radio, the captain contacted the coast guard saying that his vessel had just run aground.

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