BP rejects out-of-hand report that it was “behind” Wakashio oil spill

Energy company BP has rejected out of hand some media reports which claimed that the company was involved in the grounding of the bulk carrier Wakashio off Mauritius in July 2020.

The vessel was chartered by MOL from a subsidiary of Nagashiki Shipping Co. It ran aground off the island of Mauritius on July 25th last year and subsequently leaked about 1,000 tonnes of bunker oil in the area, causing considerable environmental damage.

A report from Forbes on January 6th claimed that BP bunkered unsafe very low sulphur fuel oil , which caused the ship to suffer engine failure. The report claimed that this engine failure was the reason behind the crew’s decision to sail the ship closer to the shore, and it was this that caused the grounding of the bulker.

The company has responded that “BP absolutely rejects the baseless allegations and insinuations contained in this article”.

The firm confirmed that on July 14 it supplied fuel oil to Wakashio in Singapore. The fuel was sold to Mitsui OSK Ltd (MOL), the charterer of the vessel. “This is the limit of BP’s involvement with the vessel and the voyage in question. The fuel supplied – very low sulphur fuel oil, or VLSFO – fully met the specified standard that is recognized across the international bunkering industry (International Maritime Organisation (IMO) standard ISO-8217-2020).”

BP said that “this was confirmed by separate analyses carried out by BP and an independent inspection company appointed by MOL. MOL raised no concerns about the quality of the oil, nor have the operators of seven other vessels that received the same fuel. A number of the properties of the oil that are alleged in the article do not correspond with these analyses.”

BP added it was not aware of anything to indicate that fuel quality contributed to the vessel’s grounding. It noted that “initial investigations reported on ship operator MOL’s website in December 2020 point explicitly to safety and navigation issues as the probable cause. They make no reference to mechanical issues.”

MOL had said that the probable cause of the grounding was a range of unsafe behaviours due to over-confidence, which stemmed from complacency.

Based on the information the shipowner obtained from the crew members, two days before the grounding of Wakashio, the vessel changed her passage plan-the distance from the coast when sailing off the island of Mauritius-from 22nm to 5nm.

On the day of the grounding, the crew tried to further reduce the distance from the coast from 5nm to 2nm, to enter an area within the communication range of mobile phones. The vessel apparently used a nautical chart without sufficient scale to confirm the accurate distance from the coast and water depth.

In addition, a crewmember neglected appropriate watch-keeping (visually and by radar). As a result, Wakashio ran aground in just 10 metres of water only 0.9nm off the coast of Mauritius.

Similar findings were released following a preliminary investigation by the Panama Maritime Authority, which found that the bulker diverted from its navigation route approaching closer to the coast of the island as crew members were trying to pick up an Internet signal.

BP insisted that it had not hindered or impeded any investigation into the grounding.

“We received requests for information on the fuel from Australian and Singapore authorities. We referred the Australian authority to MOL, which has the results of the analysis carried out on the oil by the independent inspection company, and we provided the Singapore authority with the results of BP’s own analysis. We did not receive follow-up requests from these authorities and are not aware of requests from any other authorities,” the company said.

Chinese rescue and salvage company Lianyungang Dali Underwater Engineering has won a contract to remove the stern section of the Wakashio bulker from a reef off Mauritius’ coast. The work on the removal of the wreck’s stern is expected to complete in the spring of 2021, according to Nagashiki Shipping.

2007-built, Panama-flagged, 101,932 gt Wakashio is owned by Okiyo Maritime Corp care of manager Nagashiki Shipping Co Ltd of Kasaoka-shi, Okayama-ken, Japan. It was entered with Japan Club (Kobe Office in charge) on behalf of Okiyo Maritime Corp at the time of the accident.

https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/news-and-insights/bp-response-to-forbes-dot-com-article.html

(Original Forbes article at:) https://www.forbes.com/sites/nishandegnarain/2021/01/06/special-report-explosive-documents-reveal-bp-behind-toxic-mauritius-oil-spill/?sh=65176bda1dda