More than a year since its grounding and splitting in two, the rump of the Wakashio newcastlemax remains lodged on a reef off Mauritius as the picture above taken a week ago shows.
Mauritius authorities continue to investigate the grounding, 2020’s most high profile shipping accident, pay out decisions to the local community are ongoing, and the ship’s crew are still being detained on the island.
The Wakashio’s flag state, Panama, has yet to make its accident investigation report public.
Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) was the charterer of the Wakashio, a 300 m long giant of the seas, owned by Nagashiki Shipping. En route to Brazil from Asia, the ship diverted from its course, running aground on pristine coral reefs just off southern Mauritius on July 25 last year. The bulk carrier would go on to spill around 1,000 tonnes of bunker fuel. The Wakashio then split in two. While the front of the ship was towed to a deeper destination and scuttled, a Chinese salvage team worked to remove the stern. Having got rid of the accommodation block and much of the deck, operations to remove the final part of the ship have ground to a halt in recent months. Strong southeast winds have been cited for the pause in wreck removal operations. The winter weather in Mauritius has been some of the most stormy experienced for many years.
In a release from December last year announcing measures to prevent another reoccurrence of a Wakashio style disaster, MOL gave the reason the ship had changed its passage plan from leaving a 22 nautical mile gap between it and the island of Mauritius to just two nautical miles. The reason cited, according to the release, was “to enter an area within the communication range of mobile phones”. Moreover, MOL revealed the crew were using a nautical chart without sufficient scale to confirm the accurate distance from the coast and water depth. In addition, MOL said a crewmember neglected appropriate watch-keeping, both visually and by radar.
Following the grounding of the Wakashio, Captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar and chief officer Tilakaratna Subodha were arrested by Mauritian authorities. On August 18 they were charged with endangering safe navigation. The pair have been detained in prison since their arrest and have been denied bail. Most of the remainder of the crew have been detained under house arrest and kept in a local hotel, seemingly on the grounds that they may be required to appear as witnesses in a trial that has yet to commence. Some of these seafarers have not seen their families for more than two years.