Salvage to Begin in Mauritius on Wakashio Wreck
The owners of the wrecked bulk carrier Wakashio announced that work on clearing the aft section of the ship from the reef in Mauritius will be commencing shortly but it is expected to take several months. The Wakashio became the center of international attention after the vessel ran aground in July and later split apart causing an environmental disaster in the pristine waters of the remote Indian Ocean island.
Okiyo Maritime Corp., the owner of the vessel, and Nagashiki Shipping Co., the manager of the bulk carrier Wakashio, confirmed they had awarded a contract to the Chinese salvage company Lianyungang Dali Underwater Engineering Co Ltd. for the removal of the remaining stern portion of the vessel.
The contract was signed on October 20, and they reported that the salvage company has already begun to transport materials to Mauritius. The company is preparing its equipment and expects to begin work at the wreck in December. The work, however, is months behind the dates targeted by the government, which had called for the removal to be completed before the hurricane season that begins this month.
“We will continue discussions and work closely with the Mauritius authorities regarding the disposal of the stern section,” the Japanese companies said in their statement announcing the salvage agreement. Reports have suggested that the ship will be dismantled where it sits firmly on the island’s reef. The forward two-thirds of the Wakashio was towed out to deep water and sunk after the ship split in two during the summer.
The salvage operation is expected to take several months and might be further complicated by seasonal storms. The owners reported that it is expected to be completed next spring.
The remediation of the oil that was spilled when the ship broke apart is also continuing. The owners said that the recovery of the floating oil was been completed. The work along the coastline they also said is proceeding smoothly, predicting it could be completed by January.
The cause of the incident is currently being investigated by the Mauritius authorities. “We will continue to fully cooperate with the people of Mauritius and the relevant authorities in Mauritius and Japan in order to investigate the cause of the incident and protect the environment,” said Nagashiki Shipping. The captain of the vessel remains in jail on the island while his lawyers have argued that he should be released and that there is no evidence that he impeded the operation of the vessel contributing to the grounding.
Numerous reports in the media, confirmed in statements by Panama as the ship’s flag state, suggested that the vessel steered towards Mauritius in hopes of capturing a wi-fi or mobile phone signal to permit the crew to call home. On the evening of the grounding, it was reported that there was a birthday party for one of the crew members. Accusations have also been made of inattention, faulty systems, or poor seamanship leading up to the accident.