Ship that oozed oil off Mauritius coast splits in 2

PORT LOUIS • A ship that has leaked more than 1,000 tonnes of oil in pristine waters off the Mauritius coast has split into two, its Japanese operator said yesterday.

The bulk carrier MK Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the southeastern coast of Mauritius on July 25 and began oozing oil more than a week later, threatening a protected marine park boasting mangrove forests and endangered species.

Mauritius declared an environmental emergency and salvage crews raced against the clock to pump the remaining 3,000 tonnes of oil off the ship.

“It was confirmed on Aug 15 that the vessel has broken into two,” the ship’s operator Mitsui OSK Lines said in a statement, noting that the information came from the vessel’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping Co Ltd. The split was caused by a crack in a cargo hold on its stern side, Mitsui said.

Nearly all the remaining 3,000 tonnes of oil had been pumped off the ship by that time, though there were still 90 tonnes on board, much of it residue from the leakage.

Mitsui noted yesterday that “an amount of unrecovered oil is believed to have leaked out of the vessel”.

The salvage team intends to pull the front two-thirds of the ship out to sea using two tugboats and let it sink to avoid further damage to the

Mauritian coastline, said a police official in the Mauritian capital Port Louis, speaking to AFP.

The weather is expected to become rougher in the coming days, Mauritius’ government said in a statement on Saturday night, noting that waves could climb to 4.5m.

The government of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has come under fire, including from Opposition leaders, for doing too little in the week after the ship ran aground.

It has vowed to seek compensation from “the owner and the insurer” of the ship for “all losses and damages” caused by the spill, as well as for costs related to the clean-up. — AFP