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Grounded 1,000-ton oil tanker BREAKS IN HALF after catastrophic spill off Mauritius

Pictures of the boat which ran aground off Mauritius in late July show the cargo ship completely torn in two parts, days after Japanese rescue teams managed to pump the remaining oil off the vehicle to prevent another massive oil spill into the pristine waters. 

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth confirmed Tuesday that all the fuel had been pumped from the reservoirs of the Japanese-owned MW Wakashio and added that about 100 tonnes remained elsewhere on board the vessel. 

In pictures issued today, the hull of the boat can be seen completely split in two. It's unsure what date the images were taken. 

The Mauritian government has been criticised for doing too little in the week after the ship crashed into the reef. According to SBSNews, the owner of the ship - the Japanese Nagashiki shipping company - took three weeks to attend the scene.   

In response to the company's delayed arrival, Greenpeace wrote: 'Many unanswered questions remain. Why was your vessel sailing so dangerously close to the reef? Why have you done so little since the ship ran aground? What will you do to reduce the damage to the environment, and the pain and suffering of those whose livelihoods depend on it?'

 The government made a statement last night saying that they were seeking compensation from the ship's owner for clean-up costs, losses and damages, and for anyone whose livelihood was affected by the spill.  

It stressed, however, the Mauritian government will not be accepting responsibility.

The ship's owner pledged to respond to requests for compensation over damage to the marine life around Mauritius.

It comes after more than 1,000 tonnes of fuel leaked into the waters from the MV Wakashio after it hit a coral reef off the island on July 25 with 4,000 tonnes of fuel. 

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 in a massive blow for the paradisiacal island popular among honeymooners and other tourists.

On Wednesday, PM Pravind Jugnauth announced that all the fuel had been pumped from the reservoirs of the ship. However, there were still around 160 tonnes of oil elsewhere on the boat, which began to leak again on Friday, turning the sea around the craft black once more.  

However today Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said: 'All the fuel has been pumped from the reservoirs.'

He added: 'It was a race against the clock, and I salute the excellent work to prevent another oil spill.

In pictures issued today, the hull of the MW Wakashio boat can be seen completely split in two. It's unsure what date the images were taken

In pictures issued today, the hull of the MW Wakashio boat can be seen completely split in two. It's unsure what date the images were taken

A devastating oil slick from Japanese ship the MV Wakashio that ran aground on a reef off Mauritius two weeks ago has spread 7.1 miles (11.5 kilometres) from Blue Bay Marine Park to the tourist island of Ile aux Cerfs on the east coast of the island

More than 1,000 tonnes of fuel has leaked into the pristine waters of the island from the MV Wakashio, with fears more could spill as the ship begins to split in half, spilling a further 1,800 left in the ship

The Wakashio hit a coral reef off the island on July 25 with 4,000 tonnes of fuel and some 1,180 tonnes of fuel has leaked into the sea 

A huge crack pictured in the hull of the Japanese-owned MV Wakashio

Fishermen and skippers tend to a makeshift oil extraction device at the Mahebourg Waterfront in Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, today

Volunteers prepare to place handmade oil barriers in the sea at the Mahebourg Waterfront in Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, today

Who foots the bill? 

A Japanese bulk carrier struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius on July 25, spilling about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil and triggering a state of 'environmental emergency'.

Scientists say the spill is the country's worst ecological disaster, killing wildlife and damaging pristine waters that attract tourists from around the globe. The full impact is still unfolding. As residents scramble to mop up the oil slicks, they are seeing dead eels and fish floating in the water as fuel-soaked seabirds limp ashore.

The following lays out the legal implications.

THE SHIP AND OPERATOR

The owner and operator of the ship is Nagashiki Shipping, an Okayama, Japan-based private company that said Mauritius had requested compensation. It said in a statement that the cause of the accident was not known and would be fully investigated.

The MV Wakashio, a nearly 300-metre Cape Size bulker used for carrying iron ore, with a deadweight of about 200,000 tonnes, was built in 2007, meaning it should be double-hulled and more protected against rupture.

With a crew of 20 sailors the Panama-flagged vessel was on course for Brazil to pick up iron ore, according to Mitsui OSK, which chartered the ship. The bulk carrier had dropped off a cargo in Tianjin, China, before it headed across the Indian Ocean.

The operator has not explained why it was sailing so close to the reef.

SPILL RECOVERY

The ship was carrying about 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil along with diesel to power its engines. One of its oil tanks, containing about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil, ruptured after it ran aground.

The MV Wakashio passed an annual inspection in March without any problems, Japan's ClassNK inspection body has said.

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said on Wednesday that nearly all the remaining oil had been removed from the ship confirming an earlier statement by Nagashiki that most of the oil that was still on board had been pumped off.

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

Under the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution damage, which is referred to as the BUNKER convention and has been administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) since it came into force in 2008, the owners of vessels are responsible for damage caused by oil leaks. That means Nagashiki rather than Mitsui OSK is liable.

In a June 13 statement, Nagashiki said it would 'deal with compensation claims based on applicable laws'.

Akihiko Ono, executive vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines, has apologised for the spill but a spokesman told Reuters it had no responsibility for the accident.

LIABILITY

Compensation amounts paid by ship owners are governed by the 1976 Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims and a subsequent amended convention agreed in 1996. The agreement also requires owners to ensure they have adequate insurance.

According to Toda Law Office in Tokyo, Mauritius has ratified the 1976 version, which limits payments to 2 billion yen ($18.7 million) while Japan has signed the 1996 document which has an upper limit of 7 billion yen.

It will be up to any court ruling on compensation to decide which one applies in this case.

INSURANCE

The Wakashio is insured by Japan Club, the country's only organization that underwrites protection and indemnity insurance for ocean going and coastal vessels. On Wednesday, a spokesman for Japan P&I said it was 'trying to make internal estimates' for how much the clean up would cost.

Jugnauth's government has said it too has yet to come up with an estimate.

Japan P&I could cover up to as much as $1 billion, because it can count on support from more than a dozen other shipowner insurance unions around the world, according to Koshiro Emura, an analyst at S&P Global Ratings.

SHIP REMOVAL

Removing the ship will be a delicate operation and is likely to take months. France, which once ruled Mauritius as a colony, has said it will assist with the cleanup, while Japan said it is sending experts.

The International Maritime Organization is providing technical advice.

'The weather was calm and it helped the pumping exercise, it also prevented the breakup of the boat, which is inevitable.'        

The oil slick has so far spread 7.1 miles (11.5 kilometres) from Blue Bay Marine Park to the tourist island of Ile aux Cerfs on the east coast of Mauritius.  

Mr Jugnauth said yesterday that while there has been no more spillage, huge cracks appeared on the ship's body, indicating it could break apart and leak more fuel. 

He said: 'The salvage team has observed several cracks in the ship hull, which means that we are facing a very serious situation.

'We should prepare for a worst case scenario. It is clear that at some point the ship will fall apart.' 

Sunil Dowarkasing, environmental consultant and former member of parliament in Mauritius, said: 'The danger of the ship breaking into two is increasing hour by hour.

'The cracks have now reached the base of the ship and there is still a lot of fuel on the ship. 

A worker holds out his arms covered in thick oil from collecting seaweed and straw mixed with leaked oil from the MV Wakashio, a Japanese owned Panama-flagged bulk carrier after it ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius today

Workers collect seaweed and straw mixed with leaked oil from the MV Wakashio, a Japanese owned Panama-flagged bulk carrier after it ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius today 

Satellite images on August 12 show the MV Wakashio off the southeast coast of Mauritius after it crashed into a coral reef

A volunteer wears protective clothing as they help to clean the oil spilled from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio 

Volunteers line up barrels at the Mahebourg Waterfront in Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, today to help in the clean up of the oil slick

A man collects leaked oil from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius on Monday

A volunteer is seen in the leaked oil from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius on Monday

Workers clean a coastal area covered with oil in Mahebourg, Mauritius last week. About 1,800 tonnes of fuel remained onboard the fragile vessel

In this satellite image provided by 2020 Maxar Technologies on Friday, an aerial view of oil leaking from the MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier ship that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius

A man scoops leaked oil from 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

Local volunteers making absorbent barriers of straw stuffed into fabric sacks to contain oil from the MV Wakashio

The bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, is pictured above

People scoop leaked oil from the vessel MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground and caused oil leakage near Blue bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius on Sunday

'Two ships are headed to the site so that fuel can be pumped into them, but it is very difficult.' 

'We are expecting the worst,' added Jean Hugues Gardenne of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.

'The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days.' 

Thousands of volunteers, many smeared head-to-toe in black sludge, have turned out along the coast since Friday, stringing together miles of improvised floating barriers made of straw in a desperate attempt to hold back the sludge. 

Vashist Seegobin, an ecology and conservation professor at the Mauritius University said that while the amount of fuel seeping from the boat appeared to have slowed, 'it is still leaking, we must remain on alert.'

A combination handout photo shows the waters near Pointe d'Esny before and after the oil leak from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, in Pointe d'Esny, Mauritius, on August 1, 2020 and August 6, 2020 in these Copernicus Sentinel-2 imageries obtained by Reuters on August 9, 2020

A still image taken from a drone video shows a cleanup crew working at the site of an oil spill after the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius on Friday

Local volunteers clean up oil washing up on the beach from the MV Wakashio, a Japanese owned Panama-flagged bulk carrier ship which is leaking oil as it recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius on Sunday

Activists said dead eels were floating in the water and dead starfish were marked by the sticky black liquid. Crabs and seabirds are also dying.

'We don't know what may happen further with the boat, it may crack more,' said clean up volunteer Yvan Luckhun.

The inter-agency United Nations team will 'support efforts to mitigate impact of (the) oil spill on natural resources and on (the) population', read a statement from the UN office in Mauritius.

Japan has dispatched a six-member team, including members of its coastguard, to assist. 

France has sent more than 20 tonnes of technical equipment - including 1.3 kilometres (0.8 miles) of oil containment booms, pumping equipment and protective gear - along with technical advisers from nearby Reunion, a French Indian Ocean island. 

An undated handout photo made available by the Office of the Reunion Region in Mauritius shows local volunteers making absorbent barriers of straw stuffed into fabric sacks to contain oil from the MV Wakashio

A photo provided by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation Ministry shows oil leaking from the MV Wakashi

Local volunteers making absorbent barriers of straw stuffed into fabric sacks to contain oil from the MV Wakashio, a Japanese owned Panama-flagged bulk carrier ship which is leaking oil as it recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius (issued Monday)

The spill has set back two decades worth of restoring the natural wildlife and plants in the lagoon.

Comservation efforts started after the government banned sand harvesting in the area back in 2000, said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, a non-governmental organisation.

The fragmentation of the oil in the sea is expected to damage corals when the heavier particles in the oil settle on them, he said, adding that the steps taken by the government to prevent the disaster are also being scrutinised.

'There is some anger and some criticism from the civil society that the government may have taken too much time to respond,' Tatayah said. 

Thousands of students, environmental activists and residents of Mauritius were working around the clock trying to reduce the damage to the Indian Ocean island

The waterfront of Mahebourg has been entirely smoothered in oil

A drone image shows volunteers preparing to handle leaked oil from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, which ran aground on a reef, at the Riviere des Creoles, on the Mahebourg waterfront, Mauritius on Monday

A drone image shows volunteers preparing to handle leaked oil from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, which ran aground on a reef, at the Riviere des Creoles, on the Mahebourg waterfront, Mauritius on Monday

An aerial view shows people scooping leaked oil yesterday, from the MV Wakashio bulk carrier that had run aground at the beach in Bambous Virieux, southeast Mauritius

The ship was grounded for nearly two weeks before it started leaking oil. There was no immediate comment from Mauritian government officials.

The Wakashio passed an annual inspection in March without any problems, Japan's ClassNK inspection body said.

Mitsui OSK Lines said in statement: 'We will do our utmost towards resolving the situation quickly.' 

It did not provide any details. The company said it has sent six employees to the site and was considering sending more, along with transport supplies.

The International Maritime Organization said it had joined efforts to tackle the spill by providing technical advice and coordinating the response. 

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