IMO sends expert to monitor Wakashio oil spill as captain, first officer placed under arrest

Photo: International Maritime Organisation

Just prior to the break-up of the grounded bulk carrier Wakashio in Mauritius late last week, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) had jointly deployed an oil spill response expert to advise the government of Mauritius on the mitigation of the impacts on the environment and coastal communities.

The focus of operations on-scene is now moving towards salvage and removal of the ship, as well as continued recovery of floating oil and beach clean-up.

The IMO says the affected area is located in a very sensitive zone that includes the Blue Bay Marine Park, Ile aux Aigrettes, and the Ramsar sites.

Alongside the IMO and OCHA, shipowner Nagashiki Shipping and the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) have also mobilised environmental and oil spill experts while the company Smit Salvage has been appointed by the owner to oversee the salvage operation that also involves teams from various countries.

Meanwhile, authorities in Mauritius have placed Wakashio‘s captain, Indian national Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, and the vessel’s unnamed first officer under arrest with one charge each of “endangering safe navigation.”

The captain and the first officer had reportedly refused to change course even after they were advised by the local coast guard in the minutes leading up to the grounding that coral reefs lay along their planned route.

The vessel then ran aground just off Point Desny in southeastern Mauritius on July 25 and started leaking oil less than two weeks later. Over 1,000 tonnes of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) subsequently spilled into the water during debunkering operations and immediately after the vessel broke in two on Saturday, August 15.

See more stories from this month’s Tug and Salvage Week here.

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