'Our country has been confronted with an unprecedented oil spill following the wreck of MV Wakashio. The concerned authorities took all appropriate actions within our existing resources and assistance from International Organisations and friendly countries, to contain and mitigate the adverse effect of this casualty'.
This statement was made by the Prime Minister, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, on Friday 28 August 2020, at the National Assembly, in Port Louis. He was replying to the Private Notice Question pertaining to the grounding of the Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio and the oil spill in the region of Pointe d'Esny.
The Prime Minister indicated that inquiries are currently being conducted by special investigation teams at the level of the Central CID to carry out a thorough investigation so as to determine the facts and circumstances that led to this situation. 'Also, under the Merchant Shipping Act, a preliminary inquiry has been instituted by the Director of Shipping. Moreover, a Court of Investigation will be instituted as per section 10 of the Merchant Shipping Act', he added.
According to Mr Jugnauth, prior to the MV Wakashio reaching the Mauritian territorial waters, the bulk carrier was being tracked by the National Coast Guard (NCG) Operations Room since 23 July 2020 at 23.30 hours when it entered our Exclusive Economic Zone at 200 nautical miles, through the Sea Vision Satellite Automatic Identification System.
The NCG continued to keep track of the vessel until it entered the country's territorial waters on 25 July 2020 at 18.10 hours, the Prime Minister said. He highlighted that the NCG contacted the MV Wakashio from 18.15 hours on five occasions before it went aground at 19.25 hours, on 25 July 2020.
Speaking about the one-day stopover of the French Minister for Overseas Territories, Mr Sébastien Lecornu, to Mauritius on 16 August 2020, he underlined that the visit attests to the warmth and strength of the excellent bilateral relations that exist between Mauritius and France. Minister Lecornu was in Mauritius in the context of efforts deployed to mitigate the effects of the oil spill.
The Prime Minister recalled that the French Minister, during a courtesy, had reiterated the solidarity of France with Mauritius as demonstrated by the urgent dispatch of a team of French experts and equipment to assist in the operations. Minister Lecornu also expressed confidence that the Mauritian authorities would take the right decision following the split of the grounded vessel, the Prime Minister said.
Moreover, Mr Jugnauth indicated that, on 26 July 2020, the owner of the vessel, Okiyo Maritime Corp and SMIT Salvage Pte Ltd signed the Lloyds Standard Form of Salvage Agreement (LOF). Under this Salvage Agreement, the Salvage Team is responsible to salve the vessel and take the vessel to a place of safety, he pointed out. The Salvage Team has the environmental obligation to use their best endeavours to prevent or minimise damage to the environment while performing the salvage services. This is in line with section 147 of Merchant Shipping Act, he added.
As regards environmental personnel, a team was deployed led by a Chemical Engineer from Polyeco Societe Anonyme and supported by a team of 15 persons from Mauritius. Equipment was airfreighted by Polyeco Societe Anonyme, and included fence booms, oil absorbent booms, sorbent booms and skimmers.
The Prime Minister concluded by reiterating Government's gratitude to organisations and countries, as well as volunteers, citizens, NGOs, private sector organisations who have spontaneously come forward to support the lagoon and shoreline cleanup operations.