The Panama Maritime Authority has hit out at the level of seamanship onboard the Anglo-Eastern crew managed Wakashio in the hours leading to its grounding on a reef off Mauritius on July 25, creating one of the island republic’s greatest ever ecological disasters.
The Panama-flagged Nagashiki Shipping newcastlemax leaked more than 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel and split in two following its grounding.
Panamanian authorities have given an update into their ongoing accident investigation, having interviewed most of the crew.
The registry has been able to ascertain that the Wakashio’s crew, in the afternoon of July 25, celebrated the birthday of one of the crewmembers.
Furthermore, the ship deviated from its approved navigation plan. The crew have told investigators that ship came closer to the Mauritian coastline as the captain – now in jail with the first officer – sought a telephone and internet signal in order for the crew to communicate with their families.
The captain, the chief engineer and the first officer were on the navigation bridge when the situation of approaching land occurred as evidenced by the ship’s ECDIS.
“With an appropriate assessment safeguard and with good seamanship practices, that should have generated an analysis which would have allowed to carry out the pertinent actions to correct this situation,” the Panama Maritime Authority noted in an update.
The investigators also believe the ship did not have the right chart onboard. Moreover, the wrong chart was used and with the wrong scale as well.
“The lack of supervision and monitoring of the navigation equipment, the distraction generated by the officer of watch, who lost the course of navigation completely, and the excess of confidence during the watch, could be some of the reasons that caused the ship running aground in the beaches of Mauritius,” the Panama Maritime Authority stated.
Initially, in the days following the accident, the Panama flag had suggested the accident happened during bad weather, something that was later disproved.
The investigations continue. The Panamanian delegation in Mauritius is expected to interview the captain, the first officer, and have access to the voyage data recorder and essential documents for the investigation, which are in the custody of the local police.
The captain of the ship Wakashio, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, and his chief officer, Hitihamillage Subodha Janendra Tilakaratna, yesterday requested release on bail. They have been held in police custody for the last 22 days charged with “endangering safe navigation”.
The Wakashio is one of six bulk carriers in the Nagashiki fleet. The vessel was crew managed by Hong Kong’s Anglo-Eastern Group, which has a close relationship with the shipowner going back to the days of the manager’s founder, Peter Nash. The vessel was on charter to Mitsui OSK Lines and was headed to Brazil at the time of the accident.