The Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Sudheer Maudhoo, underlined that regarding the grounding of the MV Wakashio and the oil spill, daily progress reports also called situation reports were submitted by the salvage master to the Director of Shipping in cases of maritime casualties.
The Minister was replying to a Private Notice Question at the National Assembly, in Port Louis, regarding the grounding of the Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio, and the oil spill in the region of Pointe D'Esny. He gave a detailed overview of the evolution of the situation as follows:
· 30 July 2020 - it was reported that the ship was stable with no cracks detected and the tank tops were not damaged. No sign of spillage was observed around the vessel;
· 31 July 2020 - it was reported that the vessel was lively due to rough seas and had changed heading, that is, angle with respect to the reef. No deterioration of vessel and oil spill was observed. Neither the tank tops nor the deck was damaged and there was no sign of cracks. The Platform Supply Vessel (PSV), the Stanford Hawk which was in the vicinity of Madagascar was re-routed by SMIT Salvage to the casualty site;
· 01 August 2020 -salvors continued to monitor the status of the vessel and their assessment of damage sustained by the vessel;
· 02 August 2020 - the forepeak water tank, six water ballast tank and the engine room were breached, pipe duct were breached and tidal; risks for an oil spill at that stage was deemed low; due to harsh weather conditions and the very high risk of pipe breakage during pumping, transfer of fuel oil from the vessel was not recommended. Oil from the bottom tank of the ship was being transferred by salvors to tanks located at the upper location in ship in order to minimise any risk of oil spill;
· 03 August 2020 - weather conditions were not favourable and the sea was too rough with waves of maximum heights of five metres for a tug to connect to the casualty vessel MV Wakashio. Due to bad weather conditions, the vessel had moved forward 70 metres and Salvors had dropped the starboard anchor to prevent such movement;
· 04 August 2020 -weather conditions had worsened and the sea was too rough with peak waves of over five metres high for any tug to connect to the casualty vessel MV Wakashio. To prevent the vessel from moving from its grounded position, the Naval Architects from SMIT Salvage recommended that cargo No. 6 be filled with seawater to 80 % of its capacity and Salvage Master followed their instructions;
· 05 August 2020 - no oil spill was observed around the vessel except for some minor oil sheen, and which the salvage presumed was coming from the lubricating oil of the propeller shaft. He also informed that the risk of oil spill from the vessel was still low. One of the nine cargo holds was intentionally filled in by salvors to stabilise the vessel, resulting in the tilting of the vessel at the rear. However, before re-floating the vessel, pumping/transfer of oil was envisaged on barge through pipe.
The Minister further pointed out that from 26 July to the 5th of August 2020, the National Environmental Laboratory also carried out a series of analysis of samples collected from five different regions around the casualty site and that all tests results showed that no hydrocarbon was detected.
However, on 06 August 2020, said the Minister, the structure of the vessel had weakened due to continuous stresses and strains caused by the high waves and the risk of an oil spill was imminent. Due to continuous leaking of the fuel tank, it resulted into a Tier 3 oil spill situation. The National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) with respect to a Tier 3 response was triggered and an Environmental Emergency was declared to contain and mitigate the impacts of the oil spill. Immediate actions were taken for the closure of specific places/areas near the casualty site, he highlighted.
Assistance, emphasised Mr Maudhoo, was also requested from international organisations including the United Nations, European Union and foreign friendly countries, such as Australia, France, India, Japan and South Africa through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade.
Regarding the appointment of a Court of Investigation, the Minister indicated that in line with the Merchant Shipping Act 2007, where a shipping casualty such as grounding of a vessel is reported, a preliminary inquiry may be held. The Deputy Director of Shipping, he recalled, was designated to conduct a preliminary inquiry to look into the circumstances that led to the grounding of the MV Wakashio. After analysis of the preliminary inquiry report thereafter the aforesaid Court of Investigation will be appointed, he added.