Environmental Catastrophe as Cargo Ship Spills Fuel on Mauritius Reef
A large bulk carrier which ran aground off the coast of Mauritius has ruptured its fuel tanks, causing tonnes of heavy fuel oil to spill across a vast stretch of coral reef. The accident occurred close to the popular Blue Bay Marine Park.
The 300m-long, Panamanian-registered MV Wakashio owned by Japanese shipping company Nagashiki was en route to Brazil from China when it ran aground on 25 July near Pointe d'Esny, on the south-eastern coast of the island of Mauritius. The vessel was not carrying any cargo and was travelling 'on ballast'. According to local news reports, the Wakashio was carrying 3,894 tonnes of low-sulphur fuel oil and 207 tonnes of diesel at the time.
Booms designed to prevent any oil spillage from spreading had been previously deployed, however, attempts to refloat and stabilise the ship had been hampered by rough seas.
'Due to the bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tanker has been breached and an amount of fuel oil has escaped into the sea,' a representative of Nagashiki told online maritime journal gCaptain. 'Oil prevention measures are in place and an oil boom has been deployed around the vessel.'
'We are in an environmental crisis situation,' said Mauritius' environment minister, Kavy Ramano. 'This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem.'
'Access to Blue Bay Marine Park and the Mahebourg fishing reserve is strictly restricted as from this morning and until further notice.'
Like many island nations, the economy of Mauritius is heavily dependent on the surrounding ocean. Much of its income is from travel and tourism, already devastated due to the coronavirus pandemic. The nearby island of Réuinon has said it will provide assistance.