Japanese shipping major Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) plans to contribute a total fund of about ¥1billion ($9.4 million) over several years to support the recovery of environmental damage caused by the Wakashio fuel spill in Mauritius.
The company, who chartered the ship that ran aground in July and subsequently leaked fuel before breaking apart in August, said it was working with the Japanese government on the relief measures.
In cooperation with the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, the company will focus on mangrove protection and nurturing by cleaning the mangrove forest system affected by the spill, planting new mangrove trees, and conservation of biodiversity beneath mangrove forests.
Further actions will include a coral reef recovery project by using the latest technologies, including AI, to protect coral reefs from mud suspended in seawater as well as protecting seabirds and supporting research on rare species of seabirds.
MOL added it plans to assign a portion of the funds to local NGOs, and public agencies, sending personnel to Mauritius to help with clean-up and restoration projects as well as supporting the local fishery and tourism industry.
To that end, the company is planning a cruise trip by Mitsui O.S.K. Passenger Line Ltd.’s Nippon Maru from Japan to ports in Mauritius, tentatively scheduled for 2022.
The Japanese bulker Wakashio, owned by Nagashiki Shipping, went aground off Mauritius on July 25. The bunker oil from the vessel leaked out on August 6, and the vessel broke apart on August 15.
Wakashio’s bow was sent out to its final resting place on August 24, and calls for tender are open for the removal of the aft section of the wreck.
It is estimated that around 1,000 tonnes of oil have leaked from the wreck, in what is considered the worst oil spill in the history of Mauritius.
The impact of the extent of the spill is yet to be assessed, hence experts have urged actors involved in the cleanup not to use aggressive techniques in removing oil from delicate wild-life allowing for the natural recovery of flora and fauna, especially the impacted mangroves on the coastline, which are complicated to clean.
An investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.
The Panama Maritime Authority has released some preliminary findings based on live interviews with the ship’s crew which indicate that the ship intentionally diverted from its course, approaching closer to the shore of the island to pick up Wi-Fi or cell signal.
Apparently, crew members wanted to get in touch with their families.
According to the ITF, some of the crew members on board were working beyond their contract expiries due to COVID-19 related crew change restrictions.
AMP reports that the crew seems to have used an inappropriate chart on board with the wrong scale as well.
The Master and Chief Officer of the ill-fated vessel have been arrested and are facing criminal charges over the environmental disaster.