On July 25, MV Wakashio, a Japanese-owned bulk carrier currently sailing under the flag of Panama, hit a coral reef off the coast of Mauritius, an island country in the Indian ocean. One thousand tonnes of oil spilled from the ship into the protected waters surrounding the island. Now it is reported that the ship has broken into two.
News of the collision spread last week, with it being confirmed by Mitsui OSK Lines, the shipping operator, in a statement on August 16. The statement also confirmed that 3,000 tons of fuel onboard had been safely transferred to smaller tankers. The ship’s owner Nagashiki Shipping confirmed that about 90 tonnes might still be on board, mostly residue from the leak over the last few weeks.
Thousands of inhabitants of the island have been working tirelessly to curb the effects of this environmental disaster. Citizens have helped build kilometers of floating booms filled with sugar cane leaves and human hair to contain the oil spill as much as possible. Around 800 tonnes of polluted liquid was removed from the coastline as well as 300 tonnes of solid sludge. While the effort has been remarkable, there is more to do.
The complete removal of the ship and the oil is expected to take months. Experts are unsure of the full impact of the spill and just how extensive the damage is to the marine ecosystem. It might take years, if not decades, for the region to recover. This is devastating for the sea-life affected and for the many people whose survival depends on the sea. The turquoise waters of Mauritius are a sought-after holiday destination.
The front two-thirds of the ship is expected to be removed by tugboats and safely sunk further out at sea. There is currently no plan on how to remove the rear part of the vessel, which is stuck on the reef.
As reported by Reuters, Shinjiro Koizumi, the Japanese Environment Minister, announced that the Asian country is planning to send a team of officials from the ministry and other specialists to support Mauritius with the accident. France has also offered support in dealing with this environmental disaster. Nagashiki has pledged to respond to the request for compensation over the damage done to the marine environment.