Workers Successfully Remove Oil from Bulker After Sealife Decay

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Mauritian volunteers fished dead eels from oily waters on Tuesday as they tried to clean up damage to the Indian Ocean island’s most pristine beaches after a Japanese bulk carrier leaked an estimated 1,000 tonnes of oil, writes Duncan Miriri for Reuters.

Major ecological crisis

The ship, MV Wakashio, owned by Nagashiki Shipping and operated by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd, struck a coral reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25 and began leaking oil last week, raising fears of a major ecological crisis.

Activists told Reuters that dead eels were floating in the water and dead starfish were marked by the sticky black liquid. Crabs and seabirds are also dying.

“We don’t know what may happen further with the boat, it may crack more,” said clean up volunteer Yvan Luckhun.

Worst scenario ahead

The MV Wakashio is still holding some 2,000 tonnes of oil and it is expected to eventually break up, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said late on Monday, warning that the country must brace for the worst.

Tourism is a leading part of the Mauritius economy. The government, which declared an emergency on Friday due to the spill, is working with former colonial ruler France to try to remove the oil.

Restoring natural wildlife and plants

The spill has set back two decades worth of restoring the natural wildlife and plants in the lagoon, which started after the government banned sand harvesting in the area back in 2000, said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, a non-governmental organisation.

The fragmentation of the oil in the sea is expected to damage corals when the heavier particles in the oil settle on them, he said, adding that the steps taken by the government to prevent the disaster are also being scrutinised.

“There is some anger and some criticism from the civil society that the government may have taken too much time to respond,” Tatayah said. The ship was grounded for nearly two weeks before it started leaking oil.

Annual inspection

There was no immediate comment from Mauritian government officials.

The Wakashio passed an annual inspection in March without any problems, Japan’s ClassNK inspection body said.

Mitsui OSK Lines said in statement: “We will do our utmost towards resolving the situation quickly.” It did not provide any details.

The company said it has sent six employees to the site and was considering sending more, along with transport supplies.

The International Maritime Organization said it had joined efforts to tackle the spill by providing technical advice and coordinating the response. U.N. agencies and other international groups were also mobilising environmental and oil spill experts.

Japanese bulk carrier ship

In a race against tides and time, workers have pumped tons of fuel from a Japanese bulk carrier ship grounded in the shallow waters of Mauritius to try to prevent a renewed oil spill from further fouling the island’s eastern lagoons and shore.

The Japanese ship, MV Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef on July 25, and prolonged pounding by heavy surf caused the vessel to crack about two weeks later.

It spilled an estimated 1,000 tons of the ship’s total cargo of 4,000 tons of oil into the Indian Ocean.

By Tuesday, about 1,000 tons of the fuel had been pumped out of the stranded ship into small tankers nearby.

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Source: Reuters

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