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The captain of a cargo ship that struck a coral reef near Mauritius was arrested and questioned about an alleged party that was said to be ongoing as the vessel ran aground

by Anh Scammell (2020-09-06)

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The captain of a cargo ship that struck a coral reef near Mauritius was arrested and questioned about an alleged party that was said to be ongoing as the vessel ran aground.  

The MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on July 25 and began spilling oil on August 6, prompting the government to announce a state of environmental emergency.

The spill spread over a vast area of endangered corals, tour thác bản giốc affecting fish and other marine life in what some scientists have called the country's worst ecological disaster.

Emergency crews removed most of the ship's remaining oil before it split apart on Saturday.

The Japanese-owned vessel's black box is being examined, and crew members are now facing questions about why the vessel, which had been heading from Singapore to Brazil, was so near to the shore,  reports. 

A maritime official with knowledge of the incident, who asked not to be named, said the crew had been questioned about reports they were having a birthday party on board, but added it was not clear yet if the party had been held at the same time that the ship ran aground or earlier in the day. 

The captain, identified by police as Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, 58, and his first officer were charged with endangering safe navigation and appeared at court in Port Louis, a police spokesperson said.   

An aerial view taken in Mauritius on August 17. The MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on July 25 and began spilling oil on Aug.

6, prompting the government to announce a state of environmental emergency

An aerial view taken in Mauritius on August 17 shows the MV Wakashio bulk carrier, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that had run aground and broke into two parts near Blue Bay Marine Park

An aerial view taken in Mauritius on August 17, shows the MV Wakashio bulk carrier, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that had run aground and broke into two parts

This aerial picture taken on August 16, 2020, shows the MV Wakashio bulk carrier that had run aground and broke into two parts near Blue Bay Marine Park, Mauritius

Aerial images taken of the Japanese cargo ship taken on Sunday show how the hull of the boat has completely split in two

The ship that has leaked more than 1,000 tonnes of oil in pristine waters off the Mauritius coast has split into two, as images taken on Sunday show 

The Mauritius coastguard had repeatedly tried to reach the ship to warn that its course was dangerous but had received no reply, the maritime official said.

'The route set five days before the crash was wrong and the boat navigation system should have signalled that to the crew and it seems the crew ignored it.

The boat did also fail to send out an SOS (when it ran aground), and did not respond to attempts by the coastguard to get in touch,' the official said.  

The official confirmed that the crew had been questioned about reports they were having a birthday party, and denied media reports that the ship had sailed close to land seeking a Wi-Fi signal, saying that looking for a phone signal would not have required sailing so close to land.

A view shows Japanese bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio as it begins to break apart, after it ran aground on a reef in Mauritius, in this August 15 satellite image

Two men, near Blue Bay Marine Park, look at the vessel MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, on August 15

A picture taken on August 15, 2020 near Blue Bay Marine Park, shows the vessel MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of south-east Mauritius, on August 14 

An aerial view taken on August 15 shows the vessel MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that had run aground near Blue Bay Marine Park, Mauritius

The Mauritius National Crisis Committee confirmed the ship's breakage in a statement on Saturday.

'At around 4.30pm [12:30 GMT], a major detachment of the vessel's forward section was observed,' they said

The Japanese bulk carrier that ran aground on a reef in Mauritius last month threatening a marine ecological disaster around the Indian Ocean island has broken apart, authorities confirmed on Saturday 

An aerial view taken on August 15, shows the vessel MV Wakashio as it starts to break up after it ran aground on a coral reef , above and below 

The government made a statement earlier this week saying that they were seeking compensation from the ship's owner for clean-up costs, losses and tour hồ ba bể damages, and for anyone whose livelihood was affected by the spill

The ship, which has already leaked some 1,180 tonnes of fuel into the sea, began leaking oil into coral reefs, mangrove forests and protected wetlands last week

A national television network had reported that the captain told the court the ship was sailing coastline to get a phone signal, something he had done before when sailing through those waters.

He was not in charge of the ship at the time, he said, the ship was not on autopilot and there was bad weather, according to the report.

Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades.

Removing the ship is likely to take months.

The official noted it was the second accident in the area in four years and said the government might establish a signal station nearby to try to ward off future disasters.

Mauritius National Crisis Committee said on Wednesday it planned to scuttle the ship's remains at sea at a yet to be determined date.

It would do so in a way that would avoid further pollution or interfere with maritime routes, it said in a statement.  

Environmental group Greenpeace said the action would lead to more pollution.

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