The International Maritime Organization (IMO), UN agencies, the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) and countries such as Japan and France are mobilising oil spill experts to help the Government of Mauritius avert an environmental disaster after the bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on 25 July and began leaking fuel.
In a statement issued today (11 August), the IMO said that it has deployed an oil spill expert in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Environment Unit. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and border closures in Mauritius, the expert is said to be currently awaiting onward travel via a specially chartered UN flight from Nairobi.
Approximately 3,894 metric tonnes (mt) of very low sulphur fuel oil, 207 mt of diesel and 90 mt of lube oil were onboard the Wakashio and a quantity of oil leaked during severe weather conditions.
The affected area is located in a very sensitive zone that includes the Blue Bay Marine Park, Iles aux Aigrettes, and the Ramsar site.
The vessel’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping, has appointed Smit to lead a large team of professional oil responders and salvors which has been on site for a number of days.
In a statement issued today, Nagashiki Shipping said that the Mauritius authorities have commissioned two tankers – MT Elise and MT Tresta Star – and tugs to help with fuel removal. The MT Elise is attached to the Wakashio, a hose has been connected and the fuel oil is being drained.
The MT Tresta Star is on site waiting and helicopters have also been deployed to transport containers containing fuel collected from the hull.
MOL, which is the charterer of the vessel, has provided more information about the quantity of fuel which has escaped into the water.
According to MOL, approximately 1,020 mt of VLSFO has now been pumped out and transferred to tankers. Some 1,180 mt had leaked out from the vessel tank, of which an estimated 1,000 mt has leaked outside the vessel. Around 460 mt is estimated to have been recovered from the sea and coast.
The company says that around 1,600 mt of VLSFO and 200 mt of diesel oil currently remain onboard the ship.
There are growing concerns that the bulk carrier may break up and MOL noted that: ‘We confirmed that the crack inside the hull of the ship had expanded.
‘Since this ship is unable to navigate by itself, it is moored to a tugboat so that it will not drift even if it is broken.’