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Mauritius Oil Spill 2020

A Japanese owned ship, MV Wakashio hit a coral reef, Pointe d’Esny in Mauritius on 25th July 2020. Reports say that the ship was carrying 4000 tonnes of fuel oil.

Although most of the oil was pumped out from the ship prior to its wreckage, it is said that at least 1000 tonnes of oil leaked into the sea causing huge damage to the ecosystem. 

Noriaki Sakaguchi, from the Japan International Cooperation Agency explained that ”the oil leak from the stranded ship has caused severe damage to the people of Mauritius, the economy of which largely relies on tourism and the beautiful ocean. I am terribly distressed. I would like to assess the situation and provide professional advice so that our contribution as an expert team will meet the demands of local people and the government.”

BBC has brought to light the fact that the operation to stabilize the situation has not been that successful yet as it has been severely challenged by low tides, but it should progress as the water deepens.

Moreover, ships Captain, 58-year-old Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, has been arrested as a result of the incident. “Mr Nandeshwar, an Indian national, was arrested alongside the chief officer of the ship, Tilak Ratna Subodh, a Sri Lankan.

The two were taken into police custody legislation again in court on Aug. 25, Ilshad Mansoor, Mr Nandeshwar’s lawyer, said in a phone interview” reported The New York Times.

Members of the crew and the police officers have alleged that there might have been a birthday party on the day the ship ran aground. A theory that has been going around was that the ship might have navigated so close to the shore to pick up Wi-Fi signal.

With anger mounting over the oil spill, islanders have joined together in an effort to contain the fuel oil that leaked into the waters surrounding the picturesque nation. Media has reported that locals have been seen making “absorbent barriers of straw-stuffed into fabric sacks” to attempt to contain the spill.

Whereas others created tubes and some cleaned up the beaches. Environmental activist Ashok Subron informed a news agency that “people have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora.”

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth soon confirmed that it was a state of emergency and requested for help. France, from its nearby island, Réunion, sent a military aircraft with pollution control equipment.

Japan announced that it would send a six-member team to assist the French efforts. UNCTAD tweeted, “The Mauritius oil spill is a tragic reminder of the environmental threats posed by maritime transport and the urgent need for all countries to adopt the international conventions that govern our seas.”

You must be wondering then what action has been taken regarding the spill as it seems to be quite serious…

Although there are several legislation regarding such hazardous situations in the sea, not all are used and ratified by each and every nation. “As the MV Wakashio spill falls under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, compensation for economic losses and environmental damage would be less than if the vessel had been an oil tanker. 

While the Bunker Convention would provide for maximum compensation of around $65.17 million, the payout would be four times higher, or $286 million, under the applicable International Oil Pollution” explains an article by UNCTAD.

The effect of the oil spill is still unclear. Nevertheless, warnings have come from several environmental groups regarding the spillage and the potential it holds to wreak the ecology.

Another area of concern is that Mauritians are now breathing air mixed with oil in it. Although compensation has been guaranteed by the company and fines have been imposed along with investigation in place, uniquely biodiversity-rich marine ecosystem is under severe threat.

It seems, for now, there is not much we can do rather than follow the protocols in place. However, these countries can take notes as to how necessary it is to put in place the legislation regarding such situations that would invariably protect the environment.

By Sagarika Mukhopadhyay

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