Lessons Learnt from the 2020 Mauritius Oil Spill

Coast of Mauritius

What The Oil Spill in Mauritius Taught Us

As a proud provider of chandlery services to customers in Cape Town and at other South African ports, the Link Ship Chandlers team makes a point of staying abreast of relevant news that affects the shipping industry around the globe. This is especially true of cases in which the environmental impact of our trade is concerned.

As such, we were greatly saddened to learn about the oil spill that resulted when the MV Wakashio, which left China on 14 July carrying 4000+ tonnes of heavy oil, lubricants and diesel, hit a coral reef in Mauritius on 25 July 2020 en route to it destination in Brazil, causing a devastating environmental disaster.

A few very important lessons were learnt from this oil spill, namely:

Rather Be Overcautious Than Underprepared

At the time of the accident, no oil leaks were reported. However, by the 5h of August, a minor oil slick developed around the vessel (still too small to raise any major warning flags according to authorities), and by the 7th of August Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth was forced to declare a national environmental emergency when the vessel flooded and sank. In the process 1000+ tonnes of oil spilled into the Indian Ocean.

Make Good Use of the Resources at Your Disposal

Mauritius was not under-resourced in terms of oil spill containment. The country has been receiving support from the World Bank since the 1990s in order to build capacity to address environmental disasters of this kind.

When the MV Benita ran aground in Mauritius in June 2016, oceanographer and environmental engineer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo issued a warning that the country had to prepare for similar events on a larger scale. This call to action largely went unheeded.

There is technology available to help clean up oil spills to ascertain degree. This includes skimming (removing oil from the surface of the sea); in-situ burning (burning oil that has been concentrated to one non-sensitive area); and oil booms (floating barriers that act like fences to contain oil and keep it from spreading any further). With improved accountability measures and up-to-date assessments to plan future responses, these solutions could be used to better effect.

Culprits Will be Held Accountable

The action against the Nagashiki Shipping company, the owners of the vessel, has been swift and decisive. The ship had no reason to come as close to the island as it did and the captain and his second-in-command were arrested and charged under the piracy and maritime violence act, and will ke kept in custody until the investigation has been completed. The Japanese owners of the ship have also since offered to pay compensation for applicable damages caused by the spill.

Keep an eye on the blog in coming weeks and months as we share more insights based on news from the global shipping trade. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to the Link Ship Chandlers team if you require any information about the chandling services we offer at South African ports in Cape Town, Saldanha, Port Elizabeth, Coega, Durban and Richards Bay.

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