Bunker Lightering Gets Under Way - by Helicopter
Authorities in Mauritius are working to lighter bunkers off of the grounded bulker Benita, which went onto a reef near Le Bouchon on June 16. To avoid the risk of attempting to transfer oil via hoses, three police helicopters are carrying plastic chemical transport tanks (totes) full of fuel to a soccer pitch shoreside. Thirty tons of fuel have been transferred so far, out of 145 tons aboard.
A fuel tank breach has been reported and imagery from the scene show spilled fuel oil on the beaches near the site of the grounding. Authorities are working to clean up the oil and contain the spill.
Initial reports suggested that a brawl on board led to the grounding, and local media said that the fight was instigated by one member of the engine department, Omar Taton, who reportedly confessed to local police that he had assaulted a fellow crewmember, Alvin Maderse. Taton allegedly proceeded to turn off the Benita's engines and barricade himself in the engine room, leading to her grounding eight hours later; an armed coast guard team boarded the vessel by helicopter and arrested him shortly after she went aground. He has already been charged with aggravated assault and may also be charged with piracy. Police are interrogating the captain and several officers regarding the events following the fight and leading up to the grounding, reports Defi Media.
On Thursday, the London P&I Club – the Benita's insurer – said in a statement that the vessel had grounded because "a crew member . . . suffered a serious medical episode which led to him attacking one colleague before causing extensive damage to the engine room systems that led to a loss of power to the vessel." The insurer said that "the injured crew member is receiving medical attention ashore for this seizure."
The Club said that the pollution observed was "limited oil sheens . . . in the immediate vicinity of the vessel."