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Was An Engine Malfunction To Blame For The Wakashio Oil Ship Crash In Mauritius?

A series of statements last week by the Mauritian Police about the Voice Data Recorder (VDR) of the oil spill ship, Wakashio, has attracted a lot of attention in Mauritius.

There appears to be a divergence from the accounts offered by the Panama Maritime Authorities and what the Wakashio’s Voice Data Recorder reveals. 

It will be crucial that this discrepancy is properly investigated, to ensure the uncertainty surrounding the Wakashio does not continue to persist, given the impact the oil spill has had on the country which is still in a state of National Environmental Emergency.

Questions have also been asked about why other vessels in close proximity to Mauritius in the evening of July 25 did not report hearing anything on Channel 16 of their VHF radio, which is the designated at an international distress frequency by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union that regulates this bandwidth. Over the course of a day, there are between 50 and 100 large ocean bound vessels passing within a few miles of Mauritius’ coast, around one every 20 minutes.

What is known so far

The Wakashio crashed into the reefs of Mauritius on July 25 at around 7.15pm in the evening, travelling at a cruising speed of 11 knots (12 miles per hour). 

Drone footage (seen in link above) shot by Mauritian investigative journalist, Reuben Pillay, was taken the following day on July 26 at around 5am as the sun was rising (i.e., within 9 hours of the crash at first light in Mauritius).  It shows the condition of the Wakashio in the immediate aftermath of the grounding, including the external conditions of the bridge’s communication systems, and reveals the direction and condition of the vessel when it collided with the reefs, before the currents had the chance to significantly move the vessel.

The vessel remained on the reef for 12 days before the oil spill on August 6, and a further 9 days before it split completely in two on August 15.

In parliament on August 28, the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth said, “At 20h10 the Master of the Vessel finally reported to the call made by the NCG. Whilst providing information relating to its position, its last port being Singapore, the next port of call being Brazil, the Master of the vessel informed that the vessel was on an innocent passage. After further query, the Captain stated that he had lost control of his vessel, which got grounded.”

Satellite analysis reveals there was no indication that the Wakashio slowed down or attempted to steer away from the

Concerns About Tampering With Oil Fingerprinting In Mauritius Spill Ship Wakashio

Newspaper reports in Mauritius this week have raised concerns about tampering with the oil fingerprinting linked to the Japanese-owned vessel, the Wakashio. 

The vessel ran aground amid a network of highly protected areas in Mauritius at the end of July, and was responsible for the biggest oil spill in Mauritius history 12 days later, setting off a State of National Environmental Emergency in the country and an ecological crisis as endangered species on a highly protected reserve were directly impacted by the spill.

In the national Mauritian newspaper, the Le Mauricien on 4 October 2020, a full page is devoted to the concerns about the handling of the oil fingerprinting by the crew of the Wakashio

This comes amid questions about the role of the IMO and ITOPF in not facilitating the rapid oil fingerprinting as thousands of animals have now washed up dead in the South of Mauritius, over 50 whales and dolphins have died, and an entire island of highly endangered species are at risk.

This oil fingerprinting is crucial to understand the potential long-term impacts on these species, as it acts as a DNA signature to help scientists model the impact of the oil on Mauritius’ unique ecosystem.

Serious flaws in handling of oil samples to date

In the article published on October 4, the newspaper identifies several serious flaws with the way the oil sample could have potentially been handled on board the vessel.

The biggest concern was that the sample collection did not follow IMO guidelines on independently validating the collection sites and ensuring clear chain of custody protocols, with a member of the inspecting authority (Mauritius) present during collection.

A member of Mauritius investigating authority should have been present on board the Wakashio to verify and agree where the sample was collected from within the large engine of a ship (which can often be as large as a school building).  This would have ensured a clear chain of custody provenance of the samples. The Le Mauricien article highlights that with COVID-19 restrictions, Mauritian authorities were not boarding the Wakashio. Hence there are questions whether these samples would meet the strict conditions set in court.

Fortunately, the engine part of the wreck remains on the reefs of Mauritius, and the salvage crew have not yet arrived for the

Thousands Of Sea Creatures Found Dead 5 Miles From Wakashio Wreck

The true scale of the devastating Wakashio oil spill is only just becoming apparent to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

Thousands of sea creatures have turned up dead around a small coral atoll five miles South West of the Wakashio wreck, called Ilot Brocus.

Local environmental NGO, Reef to Roots, were at the location of Ilot Brocus, a protected coral atoll, when they noticed how many sea creatures had died.

The videos, that have been widely circulated by local news in Mauritius since Monday September 28, describe the scene at low tide between the beach of Le Bouchon and Ilot Brocus the weekend prior.

Jose Berchand, Vice President of Reef to Roots explains what he saw. “At low tide between Le Bouchon beach and Ilot Brocus, there is a terrible smell. There are many sea creatures that we have found dead in the lagoon. There are many dead sea snakes, many dead eels, dead Madagascan Mud Crabs (Crabe Malgaches), dead octopus, a lot of dead fish and a really high number of dead shell creatures. You can see that they are dead within their shells.”

In the video (shown above), he also explains the smell of oil around the coral atoll, and traces of the thin oil film that can be seen floating on the surface.

The samples of the residue and dead sea creatures were taken away for analysis by the Government of Mauritius.

A coastline that was vibrant with marine life

This part of Mauritius had beaches that are usually full of cone snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins, starfish, sea cucumbers and other shell fish. The most vibrant corals and sponges of Mauritius grew in this region, and they had been more resilient to bleaching that impacted reefs in different areas of the world.

The Southern Eastern part of the coastline of Mauritius is known for being the most unspoilt and protected from the effects of large scale tourism in Mauritius, and was an important site for scientific study. 

It contains some of the greatest coastal and marine biodiversity in Mauritius due to its isolation from the more touristic areas of the North. Whales migrating from Antarctica can often be seen off the South coast of Mauritius from there. 

The beaches are important breeding grounds of