As expected, deteriorating weather conditions in Mauritius have begun to hamper the efforts at the site of the bulk carrier Wakashio which has now broken in two. Rough seas have also been dispersing the oil while the strong surf has sent parts of the barriers deployed to catch the oil up on to the shore itself. At the same time, Panama spoke out about the accident defending its registry of the Wakashio.
Salvage experts from Smit at the wreck along with the officials from France and other countries and the International Maritime Organization are all working to assist the government of Mauritius. Smit advised that the rough seas made it too dangerous to work on the vessel. They had hoped to pump residential oil from the engine room. The Crisis Committee reported that there are “approximately 30 cubic meters of mixed type of oil in the engine room.” Ariel pictures of the wreck show oil leaking of the area of the engine room into the ocean.
France minister Sébastien Lecornu, who has been sent by French President Emmanuel Macron, to Mauritius also spoke about the efforts. He reported that plans were under consideration for the bow section, which had been secured by tugs a short distance from the aft section which remains firmly ashore. According to the minister, he said they were considering taking the bow section out into the deep ocean and sinking it or that might be towed to another location to be dismantled. After personally touring the area and seeing the scope of the environmental disaster the minister reportedly estimated that it will take at least 10 months for a proper cleanup.
“With new reports on oil spreading further in Mauritius’ pristine beaches, this is becoming the island’s worst ecological disaster… The break up of the Wakashio must accelerate the process of breaking free from fossil fuels.” – @hkhambule#BreakFreeFromFossilFuels pic.twitter.com/BPFkcVLcDe— Greenpeace Africa (@Greenpeaceafric) August 17, 2020
A broad range of environmentalist groups have also responded to the scenes of devastation suggesting that the impact would linger far longer. Greenpeace Africa responded with a statement saying that the time has come to break free of fossil fuels.
With the Government of Mauritius continuing its calls for compensation a variety of experts have begun to speak out on the liabilities. Some insurance experts have begun to suggest the loss could top $500 million. The IMO, which dispatched experts to the region, also provided background on some of the protocols for compensation. In its statement, the IMO said that its liability and compensation regime is partly in play for this incident. “The Wakashio has compulsory insurance under the 2001 Bunkers Convention concerning all material damage and pollution claims up to the applicable limits in accordance with relevant instruments (including LLMC) and national legislation in force. Given that the ship involved is a bulk carrier, other international conventions specific to pollution damage caused by oil tankers (such as the IOPC Fund regime) do not apply in this case.”
IMO response team is assisting in Mauritius – courtesy of the IMO
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim also commented saying, “I would like to commend all those involved in the international efforts to support the Government of Mauritius and to mitigate the impact of the oil spill from the MV Wakashio. I look forward to a full investigation into the incident so that the results and findings can be brought to IMO and we can act on any recommendations.”
On social media there have been numerous accusations regarding the cause of the accident. The Panama Maritime Authority issued a strong statement in response saying, “The Panama Ship Registry wants to respond to an unfortunate video circulating on social media which, which is slanderous, defamatory, disrespectful and evil intentioned not only for the Panama Ship Registry but also our country and the way we do corporate business. It shows a total absence of knowledge on what are the international regulations that govern the maritime industry worldwide and more flagrantly, what is the Panama Ship Registry.”
Panama’s three-page statement went on to defend the safety of the shipping industry. They also summarized the Wakashio’s inspections and the certificates for the ship and its crew. They also refuted claims that Panama had flagged “vessels of dubious origin,” or that it permitted the use of “cheap labor.”
“It is not only unfair but totally inaccurate putting the blame of this accident on the Panama Ship Registry for the only fact that the vessel is registered under the flag of Panama.”
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