Salvors have done a brilliant job removing the rest of the bunker fuel onboard the stricken Wakashio bulk carrier, which has been lying precariously on a reef off the south coast of Mauritius since July 25.
Attention is now turning to how to remove the ship, which is very close to breaking up.
On land, investigators are trying to piece together how the Panamanian-flagged ship came to rest on the reef.
For its part, the Panama Maritime Authority has blamed poor weather conditions on the day of the accident.
The world’s largest registry issued a statement yesterday suggesting the voyage of the ship – in ballast from China to Brazil via Singapore – had been proceeding smoothly until July 25, when the vessel faced “adverse weather conditions” near the coast of Mauritius.
“It was then, necessary to perform various maneuvers to change course due to the state of the sea. All maneuvers were supervised by the captain and first officer of the ship who were aware of the situation and weather conditions. At 19:25hrs of the same day, while on the bridge, the captain, the first officer and the chief engineer noticed that the ship stopped moving and that it was stranded,” Panamanian authorities claimed yesterday.
The poor weather narrative runs contrary however to what London-based maritime intelligence platform Windward has detailed for July 25.
Windward data shows that on the day of the grounding while there was a storm 1,000 nautical miles south of Mauritius, weather conditions do not appear to have disrupted vessels around where the Wakashio was at the time.
What also remains unclear is the decision taken by the Wakashio to deviate course on July 21. Vessel tracking from Splash partner MarineTraffic clearly shows that early in the morning of July 21, the newcastlemax, owned by Japan’s Nagashiki Shipping, changed route, putting it on a collision course with the pristine shores of the island republic of Mauritius.
As Splash has earlier reported, the coast guard in Mauritius had tried in vain to contact the ship’s captain for an hour on the evening of July 25 to warn that its routing looked dangerous. When finally coast guard officials got through to the master, the captain insisted the planned route was safe. A few minutes later, however, the ship radioed local authorities to say the vessel had grounded on a reef.
The ship’s insurer, Japan P&I Club, its facing one of the biggest pay-outs in recent years for all the damage the spilt bunker fuel has done to the local environment and businesses.