An environmental crisis is playing out in the Indian Ocean where a grounded Panamanian-flagged newcastlemax is spewing bunker fuel onto the pristine shores of southeastern Mauritius.
The 203,000 dwt Wakashio bulk carrier, which ran aground on a reef July 26, has a gash on its starboard hull through which significant tracts of heavy fuel oil are poisoning the local environment.
The ship, owned by Japan’s Nagashiki Shipping, was en route from China to Brazil when it ran aground with 3,800 tonnes of bunker fuel onboard.
“We are in an environmental crisis situation,” admitted the environment minister, Kavy Ramano last night, while the fishing minister, Sudheer Maudhoo, said: “This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem.”
This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem
Nearby nature reserve Blue Bay Marine Park has been badly damaged with coral and rare turtles smothered in oil while schools in the vicinity are closed because of the noxious smell from the bunker fuel.
Efforts are being made to try and pump out the remaining fuel from the ship while local politicians have called for international help to contain the damage.
The French island of Reunion, which lies 200 km west from Mauritius, has been put on alert as the slick meanders through the ocean.