Cargo ship spilling tonnes of oil off Mauritius coast breaks in two

16 August 2020, 10:58

The ship has spilled tonnes of oil
The ship has spilled tonnes of oil. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

A Japanese cargo ship has broken into half off the coast of Mauritius after spilling tonnes of oil into the Indian ocean for the past three weeks . 

The MV Wakashio ran aground on one of the island nation’s renowned coral reefs on 25 July with 4,000 tonnes of the fuel, sparking an ecological emergency.

It has heammoraged fuel in the weeks since and officials said most of it has now been pumped out, but about 90 tonnes were believed to still be on board. 

The tanker ran aground at Pointe d'Esny, a known sanctuary for rare wildlife and a site of global significance under the Ramsar convention on wetlands.

Mauritius has declared a state of environmental emergency over the spill
Mauritius has declared a state of environmental emergency over the spill. Picture: AP
The ship was carrying about 4,000 tonnes of oil when it ran aground
The ship was carrying about 4,000 tonnes of oil when it ran aground. Picture: AP

The Mauritius National Crisis Committee said in a statement on Saturday: “At around 4.30pm [12:30 GMT], a major detachment of the vessel's forward section was observed.”

The committee said booms had been reinforced near the vessel to absorb any more oil that leaked out, while coastguard vessels have been deployed amid reports authorities have designated the area a “forbidden zone”. 

A huge clean-up operation involving thousands of local volunteers had been underway, but a crack inside the hull of the ship expanded earlier this week, according to the ship's operator Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, a Japanese company.

Volunteers have been hard at work in a huge clean-up operation
Volunteers have been hard at work in a huge clean-up operation. Picture: AP
The spill happened in an Indian Ocean lagoon
The spill happened in an Indian Ocean lagoon. Picture: AP

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has declared a state of environmental emergency but said more than 3,000 of the 4,000 tonnes of oil from the ship's fuel reservoirs had been pumped out.

“We are in a situation of environmental crisis," Kavy Ramano, the country's environment minister, said of the wreckage. 

The MV Wakashio was on its way from China to Brazil when it ran aground on the reef.