Scuttling of Wakashio's Bow Section Moves Ahead

wakashio bow salvage
Response tug spraying water into the bow section's open hatches (Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio)

Published Aug 23, 2020 11:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite protests from environmental groups, the scuttling of the bow section of the grounded bulker Wakashio is moving ahead, according to Mauritius' unified response command. 

The sinking operation had to be temporarily halted on Saturday due to rough seas, salvors reported, but it is now moving ahead again. To accelerate the process, crews are cutting holes through the Wakashio's bulkheads, which will allow water to flow between the holds. Images from the scene show all hatches open and a response tug spraying in water with a fire monitor. 

Last week, Greenpeace Africa protested against plans to sink the bow section off Mauritius, arguing that residual pollution in the tanks posed an unnecessary risk to the environment. The fuel in the Wakashio's tanks has been lightered off in preparation for scuttling. 

At the stern section, which is still grounded northeast of Mauritius' Blue Bay Marine Park, the pumping operation to remove fuel has now been completed. The bulk containers used to hold the recovered fuel (IBC totes) have all be flown off the deck onto a nearby PSV, and the salvors' attention has turned to removing solid wreckage, like wood, paneling and floating debris. 

The cleanup within the coral lagoon is still under way. The unified command says that it plans to remove all locally-made "artisanal" booms installed by community volunteers, then gradually draw down the extent of standard boom lines as cleanup proceeds. Foreign advisers will be guiding the process, and two foreign cleanup companies - Le Floch Dépollution and Polyeco - are handling the oil removal and mitigation work. The government says it is also enlisting local fishermen for the task. 

The Albion Fisheries Resource Centre, the Mauritius Oceanography Institute, the University of Mauritius, the National Coast Guard and a team of Japanese advisors have conducted a first survey of the coral reef. According to the unified command's summary, this survey found no harm to corals in the vicinity of Ile aux Aigrettes, an island within the lagoon that is both a popular tourist destination and the home of a small research station. Ropes attached to spill containment booms are affecting coral in some areas, the unified command reported, and mangrove shorelines have been affected by oil in "varying levels."