Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has apologised for damage done to the local environment and tourism following the spillage of 1,000 tons of heavy oil into the ocean off the coast of Mauritius.
At a news conference in Tokyo on 9 August, MOL expressed its apologies over the oil leaks caused by the cargo vessel.
MOL vice president Akihiko Ono said: “I deeply apologise for causing a great deal of inconvenience.”
The spill “will affect the environment significantly, and we have taken the (accident) very seriously.”
Wakashio, the 300-metre long cargo ship owned by Japanese operator Nagashiki Shipping, hit a reef and ran aground in the Indian Ocean on 25 July. One of the vessel’s three tanks that contained 1,180 tons of heavy oil was then damaged and started leaking into the ocean on 6 August.
According to MOL, approximately 50 tons of oil have been recovered from the tank as the rest have spilled into the ocean. The other two tanks were found to be undamaged.
The oil traces are currently visible from space as satellite Sentinel2, the Earth observation mission led by the European Space Agency, published images that show the full extent of the oil spill.
The #MV #Wakashio bulk carrier, carrying 4,000 tons of fuel 🛢️ran aground on the reef near a tourist hotspot in #Mauritius🇲🇺on 25 July & started leaking #oil #Mauritius#Sentinel2🇪🇺🛰️images show the development of the #oilspill pic.twitter.com/KDEBcryGN0
— 🇪🇺 DG DEFIS #StrongerTogether (@defis_eu) August 8, 2020
A local clean-up operation is currently ongoing, but MOL has said that more efforts are needed as the company is planning to send a response team with personnel to the site. Oil fences to prevent the spill from spreading further have already been set up.
In the meantime, Mauritius prime minister has declared a “state of climate emergency” and has sought help from other countries.
He wrote on Twitter: “The sinking of the Wakashio represents a danger for Mauritius.
“Our country does not have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I asked for help from France and Emmanuel Macron.”
Since then, specialist teams from France and Japan have joined local authorities to help contain the leak of the tanker as to preserve the beaches of the island.
MOL has ensured that the cause of the incident will be fully investigated and the owner will continue to work closely with the authorities to determine the cause.
Mauritius, which is located in southeastern Africa, has a population of about 1.3 million people and is a popular resort destination for tourists. The country is known for its clear ocean waters, coral reefs, and wild bird habitats.
Following the spill, access to beach areas on the island has been restricted while authorities are working to mitigate the environmental damage from the spill.