Wakashio owner limits liability over grounding as wreck removal continues

Japan-based Okiyo Maritime Corp, the owner of very large ore carrier MV Wakashio, has filed a motion before the Supreme Court of Mauritius to limit the claims arising from the accident at Pointe d’Esny to the equivalent of $16.6m.

The Wakashio hit coral reefs to the southeast of Mauritius on July 25th after the vessel sailed too close to the shore, apparently in an attempt to pick up a mobile phone network. The 200,000 gt vessel had been chartered by Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL). It was sailing from China for Brazil when the incident occurred, leading to a major environmental disaster. Because the vessel was an ore carrier rather than a carrier of oil, the insurance situation was different. The 1,000 tons of oil that leaked into the lagoon came from the fuel tanks.

Nagashiki Shipping subsidiary Okiyo Maritime Corp has asked for the creation of a $16.6m fund to pay compensation to the State of Mauritius, noting that Mauritius ratified the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC) 19 years ago. The request will be debated on January 10th 2022.

The dismantling of what remains of the stern started in early November, after a long pause due to bad weather conditions, and then had to be paused again last week because the weather conditions deteriorated.

About 2,500 tons of metal parts, including the main engine, were removed by China-based Lianyungang Dali Underwater Engineering and Hong Kong Lidada Ocean Engineering. A small amount of fuel oil leaked into the lagoon on November 3rd, which was quickly cleaned up by Greece-based Polyeco, which recovered 530 litres at Pointe-d’Esny and Rivière-des-Créoles. Part of the keel remains to be removed.

As of November 11th, claims for the equivalent of about $46m have been made to the insurer of the MV Wakashio, by 4,686 companies, organizations and individuals. The claims have been submitted through the Mauritius Ministry of Ocean Economy and Fisheries.

Japan P&I Club is the ship’s liability insurer and has already paid approaching $2m. Minister Sudheer Maudhoo said recently in the National Assembly that the insurer was questioning the artisanal fishing method in Mauritius by comparing it to shipping methods in Japan.

MOL has created a philanthropic trust in Mauritius, pending the establishment of a Foundation, to support environmental and societal projects. It says it has worked with Nagashiki Shipping and the Mauritian authorities for projects to rehabilitate the mangrove and coral reef on the southeast coast affected by the oil spill. This will be done through a fund equal to $7m. The initial fund is $2.6m. The trust will be managed locally.