PORT LOUIS (Mauritius) • A ship that has leaked more than 1,000 tons of oil in pristine waters off the Mauritius coast has split into two, its Japanese operator said yesterday.
The bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the south-eastern coast of Mauritius on July 25 and began oozing oil more than a week later, threatening a protected marine park that is home to mangrove forests and endangered species.
Mauritius declared an environmental emergency and salvage crews raced against the clock to pump the remaining 3,000 tons of oil off the ship.
“It was confirmed on Aug 15 that the vessel has broken into two,” the ship’s operator Mitsui OSK Lines said in a statement, noting that the information came from the vessel’s owner Nagashiki Shipping.
The split was caused by a crack in a cargo hold on its stern side, Mitsui said.
Officials had been preparing for the development for days, and images taken on Saturday indicated it was inevitable, with the two pieces only partially attached.
Mitsui yesterday said “an amount of unrecovered oil is believed to have leaked out of the vessel”.
The salvage team intends to pull the front two-thirds of the ship out to sea using two tugboats and let it sink to avoid further damage to the Mauritian coastline, said a police official in the Mauritian capital Port Louis, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.
The remaining portion is still stuck on the reef and officials have not yet determined how they might remove it, the official said.
The weather is expected to become rougher in the coming days, the Mauritius government said in a statement on Saturday night, noting that waves could climb to 4.5m.
The government of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has come under fire, including from opposition leaders, for doing too little in the week after the ship ran aground.
Thousands of Mauritians have volunteered day and night to clean the powder-blue waters that have long been a favourite among honeymooners and tourists. Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding, but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades.
Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi said on Saturday that Tokyo planned to send a team of officials from the ministry and other specialists to assess the damage.
Thousands of Mauritians have volunteered day and night to clean the powder-blue waters that have long been a favourite among honeymooners and tourists.
Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding, but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS