5133
Views

Mauritius Arrests Officers and Tows Wakashio as Questions Persist

Arrests in Mauritius as Wakashio towing begins and questions persist
Wakashio after it broke at the beginning of the week and before towing began - courtesy of the IMO

By The Maritime Executive 08-18-2020 03:22:15

The Government of Mauritius today arrested the captain of the bulk carrier Wakashio while it also moved ahead with the plans to tow the forward section of the wrecked ship out to sea and sink it. All of this was happening as increasing questions emerged over why the vessel ran aground on July 25.

Captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, who was in command of the Wakashio on its voyage to Brazil, was re-interviewed by the authorities who later announced that he had been placed under arrest. The New York Times is also reporting that the ship’s chief officer was later arrested. The captain was brought before a district court on Mauritius and charged with endangering safe navigation. He was remanded to jail with his next court appearance scheduled for August 25. Representatives for the ship’s owners have so far not responded to requests for comments regarding the arrests.

After saying the sea conditions were too rough to work on the vessel, images appeared today of the large forward section being towed out to sea. All of the cargo hatches were open and it is believed that they are proceeding with a plan to sink the forward section in deep water. It is unclear how far out they are taking the section as some reports have suggested a little more than one mile while others said six miles and still others suggest further out into international waters.

The efforts to sink the portion of the Wakashio appeared to come as a surprise to many. France’s minister had said yesterday that several different plans were under consideration and today reportedly raised concerns about the environmental impact from the sinking. Environmentalists also questioned the plan and the area that they believe was selected for the sinking. Forbes quoted environmentalists as saying that it is an important area for whales.

Many sources, however, continue to explore exactly what lead up to the grounding. Multiple media outlets have reported that there might have been a birthday party on board or that the vessel intentionally moved closer to shore attempting to obtain a Wi-Fi signal. One theory even suggests that the ship was on autopilot at the time of the grounding, inferring that a proper watch was not being maintained.

The local newspaper L’Express is increasingly questioning these theories. They quoted experts pointing out how difficult it would have been for the ship to obtain a shore side Wi-Fi signal and even more difficult to maintain it for any period of time. The newspaper is raising questions about why the ship seems to have intentionally headed for Mauritius and what the motives might have been of the captain and officers aboard the Wakashio.

The authorities in Mauritius are continuing their investigations. The ship owner has also promised to explore the circumstances saying however that its representatives were waiting for the government investigators before they could speak with the crew.

Regardless of the motives, the outcome is the same that Mauritius is confronted by the oil spill in a highly sensitive ecological area. The wind and the waves have continued to spread the oil complicating the efforts to contain the spill. Yesterday, France’s minister suggested it could take at least 10 months to complete the clean-up.