MV VAKASHIO BULK CARRIER RAN AGROUND OFF MAURITIUS AND SPILLED 1,000 TONS OF HEAVY OIL
MV Wakashio, a large bulk carrier, was built by the Universal Shipbuilding Corporation of Tsu, Japan. It was laid down on 23 September 2004 and was delivered on 30 May 2007. It had a deadweight tonnage of 203,000 tons, a length overall of 299.95 metres (984 ft), and a beam of 50 metres (164 ft). The vessel was powered by a single diesel engine giving her a service speed of 14.5 knots. The ship belonged to Okiyo Maritime Corp., an associate company of Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd. and was operated by Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines.
MV Vakashio departed from Lianyungang, China on 4 July, without cargo. The vessel stopped in Singapore and was scheduled to reach Tubarão, Brazil on 13 August.
On July 25th, as it was sailing in the Indian Ocean, the Japanese bulk carrier ran aground on a coral reef about a mile off Mauritius, and prolonged pounding by heavy surf caused the vessel to crack about two weeks later. Oil began to leak from the ship on 6 August.
It spilled an estimated 1,000 tons of its estimated 4,000 tons of heavy bunker fuel into the Indian Ocean, polluting the island’s once pristine coastline. The location of the grounding is close to two internationally protected UNESCO Ramsar sites for wetlands, including a small coral atoll that had been set aside from human interference for the recovery of endemic species of Mauritius’ rich and rare biodiversity.
France and Japan responded to the Indian Ocean island’s call for help, along with thousands of Mauritians who volunteered day and night to clean sludge from powder-blue waters that have long been a favourite among honeymooners and tourists.
The oil remaining onboard, except for the 1,000MT which had leaked out was recovered from the vessel and transferred to small tankers by August 12.
However the crack of the hull expanded again. The vessel was continuously assessed by a team of industry experts, including Naval architects, reef experts and salvors who closely monitoring and assessing the vessel.
Since the Wakashio was unable to navigate, a tow connection was established between a tug and Wakashio, so that it will not drift should the status of the vessel deteriorate further.
It was around 3:40 pm on Saturday August 15 that the MV Wakashio split in two on the reefs of Pointe d’Esny.
“The front part is being towed very slowly”, informed the director of maritime affairs. This part will be sunk off Mauritius, “at least 1,000 kilometers away”, he added.
The accident is not the first involving Mitsui OSK Lines. In 2006, the Bright Artemis crude oil tanker operated by the firm suffered damage while attempting to rescue the crew of another ship, according to a company statement from the time. An estimated 4,500 tonnes of crude oil leaked from the ship into the Indian Ocean.
(Source: Mitsui O.S.K./Wikipedia/Le Mauricien/France 24 – Image: Le Mauricien)
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