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Graphic shows where the Wakashio ran aground on Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.


Mauritius declares state of emergency over oil spill

By Ninian Carter

August 10, 2020 - A ship that ran aground off Mauritius is leaking tonnes of oil into the ocean, threatening coral reefs and the island’s vital tourist economy.

The island of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after a Japanese ship that ran aground in July began spilling tons of fuel oil.

Mauritius says the ship was carrying nearly 3,600 tonnes of fuel when it struck a coral reef off Pointe d’Esny, on the island's south east – an environmentally sensitive area.

The MV Wakashio ran aground on July 25, but the National Coast Guard received no distress calls. The ship’s owners are listed as Okiyo Maritime Corporation and Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd of Japan.

Satellite tracking data reveals the Panama-flagged bulk carrier (en route from China to Brazil) was travelling at 11 knots, standard for bulk carrier ships at sea, but crucially did not slow down prior to impact. It was also travelling 12 nautical miles closer to Mauritius than most ships transiting the area.

On August 6, the ship began to break apart, releasing 900 tonnes of heavy bunker fuel into the pristine waters of the Indian Ocean. A police inquiry has been opened into possible negligence.

In a country already reeling from the Covid-19 shutdown of the tourism industry, the economic and ecological implications are likely to be devastating.

PUBLISHED: 10/08/2020; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Associated Press