Tanker breaking up on Reunion’s eastern shoreline

The Chinese company charged with salvaging the Wakashio bulk carrier, 2020’s most high profile casualty, finished its job in Mauritius and headed to the French territory of Reunion, located 226 km west, to carry out urgent work on a tanker that is breaking up on the tropical island. However, failure to pay bills by the ship’s Indian owner has seen the Chinese company decide to end its salvage operation with the stricken tanker now falling apart.

The Mauritius-flagged Tresta Star grounded on Reunion earlier this month. With the passing of cyclone Emnati last week, the ship has rapidly disintegrated. Local authorities report a hole on the ship’s port side has widened, and parts of the vessel have sheared off in the stormy conditions with an oil slick detected in the area.

The unladen ship ran aground on February 3 on the island’s east coast, having lost power during a cyclone. All crew were safely evacuated.

Salvage firm Lianyungang Dali Underwater Engineering has said it will quit Reunion earlier than planned as the Tresta Star’s owner has not paid up. Equasis lists Mumbai-based Amba Shipping & Logistics as the vessel’s owner. The Tresta Star was deployed in August 2020 to help take oil off the stricken Wakashio.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. This is a frankly inexplicable grounding. What on earth was that ship doing going out, with hardly any fuel (we’re told), when forecasts had been warning for days about the approaching cyclone? The expected track was being charted hour by hour in the Mauritian media, so you didn’t even need to subscribe to a weather routeing service to know what was on the way.
    The fact that the ship barely moves when the waves hit the hull indicates how embedded in the basalt it must have become, so I doubt refloating was ever a realistic option. As is obvious from the wider views from the helicopter, it struck land just where the volcano’s last lava flow reached the sea, so it’s unweathered and as sharp as coral.
    This incident puts Mauritius in an embarrassing position. Having lectured the Japanese, Panama and the world generally about their responsibilities over Wakashio, it now has to explain why one of its flagged ships was allowed to leave Port Louis with insufficient fuel (allegedly) just as a Class 3 cyclone was approaching. We also have to ask why the owner has insufficient money to pay for salvage? Ever thought of insurance??
    And now, to further highlight the Wild West atmosphere of sub-standard shipping, lax controls and under-resourced maritime administration in Mauritian territorial waters and EEZ, no fewer than three Taiwanese fishing vessels were thrown on to the reef just SW of Port Louis, all, of course, posing a further risk of pollution. It’s fortunate that no one lost their life on Wakashio, Tresta Star, Wen Hung Dar 168, Fu Maan Yu Weng 168 and Fu Maan Yu Feng No 1, though of course there were, sadly, deaths from the loss of Sir Gaetan on 31 Aug 2020. Captain Coopen, who appears to be the country’s sole accident investigator, is going to be a very busy man.
    Safety in these waters is being seriously compromised by a combination of increasingly busy shipping lanes, a poorly run National Coast Guard, navaids not always working, inadequate facilities at Port Louis harbour, maritime responsibilities being split among three ministries, low levels of maritime education and training, lax imposition of regulations because of a lack of trained staff in the Shipping Department and the effects of climate change.
    It seems that the Bermuda Triangle has a new rival! Go by air? No safer – two Air Mauritius flights narrowly avoided a mid-air collision over Sudan in January. The bankrupt national carrier has sold off most of its aircraft and struggles to get its aircraft off the ground.
    Maybe take your own liferaft when in Mauritian airspace or seaspace.

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