Salvors stop Wakashio leak, but break-up still threatens

The salvors of grounded bulk carrier Wakashio (IMO 9337119), were reported to have plugged the leak on the vessel, although it was still reported to be in danger of breaking up.

Meanwhile there have been urgent attempts along the coastline to contain the estimated 1,000 tons to 2,000 tons of fuel oil that has leaked out already. The prime minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth has warned that the county should prepare for the worst-case scenario.

At the time of the grounding on July 25th the vessel, which was in ballast, had about approximately 3,800 tons of fuel oil, 200 tons of diesel and 90 tons of lube oil.

The first signs of cracks in the hull were reported on August 5th and shortly after that the oil began to appear in the water.

A hose connection was established between the Wakashio and the MT Elise, which siphoned off some 500 tons. A second tanker, the MT Tresta Star, was also standing by. Helicopters have been deployed to transfer containers of fuel oil that was being pumped into drums on deck.

PM Jugnauth warned that the experts had reported additional cracks forming in the bulk carrier’s hull. With the weather in the area deteriorating and high seas again expected, Jugnauth feared that  it was only a matter of time before the Wakashio broke up putting in danger at least two additional fuel tanks that hitherto were believed to be intact.

The ship owner Nagashiki Shipping said that a tow line has been secured between the Wakashio and one of the salvage tugs that was on the scene. They are hoping that the tug can help to secure the Wakashio. It added that it was seeking permission from Mauritius to deploy oil dispersant chemicals on the water.

The vessel’s charterer is Japan’s Mitsui OSK Line. The company said on Tuesday that it had set up a task force and was cooperating with the authorities in Japan and Mauritius. The company said it was preparing to send personnel to the site.

Mitsui OSK also said it did not expect the impact on its earnings from the incident to be big enough to warrant a financial disclosure.

Data analysis company Windward reviewed positioning data for an analysis published in Forbes. Windward reported that the ship was traveling at a normal 11-knot speed, but was far to the north of the normal shipping lanes from the time it reached the area around Mauritius two days before the grounding.

Shortly after the grounding, there had also been reports from the media in Mauritius that the Coast Guard spotted the vessel’s course and tried in vain in the hours before the grounding to contact the Wakashio.

The vessel had passed the latest annual inspection in March with no problems, Japan’s ClassNK inspection body said on Tuesday August 11th.

Meanwhile, conservationists said they were starting to find dead fish as well as seabirds covered in oil, increasing fears of an ecological catastrophe.

Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at NGO Mauritius Wildlife Foundation said that “we are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued”, adding that the nearby Blue Bay Marine Park, known for its corals and myriad fish species, had escaped damage so far, but that a lagoon containing an island nature reserve, the Ile Aux Aigrettes, was already covered in oil.

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 is entered with Japan Club (Kobe Office in charge) on behalf of Okiyo Maritime Corp.