Master and Chief Officer of Wakashio detained by Mauritius

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According to Reuters, the master and chief officer of the ill-fated bulker Wakashio, now breaking up after grounding off Mauritius, have been arrested by the island’s police.

Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on 25 July 25 and began spilling oil on August 6, prompting the government to announce a state of environmental emergency. Around a quarter of the vessel’s 4,000 tonnes of bunkers was leaked causing an environmental disaster. The remaining bunkers have been successfully taken off and the vessel has broken in two and the fore part already towed away.

According to Reuters, Mauritius’ National Crisis Committee said two companies, International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) and Le Floch Depollution, will start cleaning three sites on the shoreline on Wednesday and will be joined by local groups including fishermen.

Reuters quoted local police chief Inspector Siva Coothen as saying, “We have arrested the captain of the vessel and another member of the crew. After having been heard by the court they have been denied bail and are still in detention,” Inspector Siva Coothen told Reuters. The Mauritius coastguard had repeatedly tried to reach the ship to warn that its course was dangerous but had received no reply, a maritime official with knowledge of the incident who asked not to be named told Reuters, “The route set five days before the crash was wrong and the ship’s navigation system should have signalled that to the crew and it seems the crew ignored it. The ship also failed to send out an SOS (when it ran aground), and did not respond to attempts by the coastguard to get in touch,” the official said.

The official confirmed that the crew had been questioned about reports they were having a birthday party on board, but said it was not clear yet if the party had been held at the same time that the ship ran aground or earlier in the day. He also denied media reports that the ship had sailed close to land seeking a Wi-Fi signal, saying that looking for a phone signal would not have required sailing so close to land.

The official noted it was the second accident in the area in four years and said the government might establish a signal station nearby to try to ward off future disasters.

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