21 AUG 2020
Mauritius is proceeding with its efforts to clear away the impact of the grounded bulker Wakashio. In its latest actions, supported by experts from the UK, efforts proceeded to scuttle the ship despite the concerns voiced by residents and environmental groups.
The National Crisis Committee in Mauritius issued a statement saying that the scuttling of the forward section would begin at 4:00 p.m. local time observed by a team from the Ministry of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping and Marine Mammal Observers and Marine Mega Fauna Conservation. A range of experts was reported to also be supporting the efforts.
The chief salvage master was overseeing the operation confirming that the forward section of the ship had been positioned in the selected location. Before beginning the operation, Mauritius also said that the salvage team had confirmed to the committee that all the hydraulic oil as well as debris that could float away from the forward section have been removed from the vessel.
In addition, the UK’s Department of International Development reported that the UK was also providing legal and technical advice on how to safely dispose of the stricken ship. A team consisting of three British ecology experts from the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and one marine legal expert was sent to Mauritius by the UK reportedly at the request of the government. The ecology experts, the UK said, would be working with local experts and the community assessing the scale of the damage and helping to identify the best ways to restore its coastline and protect the thousands of animal species at risk of oil pollution.
Mauritius also reported that with sea conditions improving at the wreck site, SMIT Salvage would proceed with the pumping off of the remaining lubricating oil from the aft-section of the Wakashio. No determination has yet been announced if they will attempt to refloat and sink the stern section or if it will be scrapped on the beach.
At the same time, the efforts are also continuing in the waters and along the coastline to control the oil spill. The National Coast Guard is reportedly monitoring the deployed booms especially around sensitive sites and making repairs or replacing damaged sections of the boom. To date, the government is reporting that no oil has made its way into the Blue Bay Marine Park, which is considered to be one of the most ecologically sensitive areas near the spill.
Experts, however, reiterated that it will be a long process both to undertake the full cleanup as well as to determine what caused the accident. The investigations are continuing and in the latest reports the captain had handed over his cellphone for examination.