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Webinar: MV Wakashio - Part 4 - Update on the Incident

in External Events

28 April 2021, the MOIG Director participated to webinar; via electronic conferencing platform; titled “MV Wakashio Incident Part 4-Update on the incident, the spill cleanup in detail and it impact” presented by Mark Orr; Executive Director of UK & Ireland Spill Association Ltd (UK & IRE Spill) and Nikos Vlachos, Shoreline Incident Commander from POLEYCO. This webinar was supported by OAMPS.

Mark Orr started by introducing UK & IRE Spill as a trade body for marine and inland response companies in the UK, representing contractors, manufacturers and consultants He underlined that UK & IRE Spill runs accreditation activities under its own scheme for inland oil and chemical spills. He presented MV Wakashio as a modern bulk carrier and its last 06 months work. He indicated that MV Wakashio was unladen when it ran onto a reef of Mauritius Pointe-d’Esny on July 25; 2020 at 19:15; while en route from China to Tubarão in southern Brazil. He explained that the vessel initially appeared stable, but after spending weeks on the reef, it eventually broke up, resulting in the release of some 1,000 Tonnes of heavy fuel oil which seeped into Mauritius lagoons and created an environmental disaster.

Mark Orr described then the chronology of main events of the incident, which are the following ones:

26 July : Coastguard visited MV Wakashio and Covid testing of crew completed

28 July : Mauritian Minister of Environment issues statement

31 July : SMIT team arrived on board to inspect vessel and assess damage

01 Aug: Tug boat Stanford Hawk supported operations around MV Wakashio

06 Aug : Oil leak

07 Aug : Prime minister declared a state of environmental emergency and requested French help

08 Aug : POLMAR shoreline response stockpile mobilized and arrived on island

10 Aug : Prime Minister tells the nation that the Wakashio is likely to break up and the worst case scenario is likely to happen as the boat will fall apart.

11 Aug : Oil spread further as hull breaches further

12 Aug : SMIT Salvage announced that oil pumping operations were completed

12 Aug : The representatives of French Shoreline clean-up contractor “le Floch Dépollution” arrived on site

15 Aug : A crack in cargo hold N°8 to the starboard side of the vessel worsened and a major detachment of the vessel’s forward section was observed. It was estimated that 90 tonnes of fuel were still on board 24 Aug: Sinking of the vessel bow section.

26 Aug : 18 Dolphins and whales was up dead on the Mauritian shores

28 Aug : Total increases to 39 whales and dolphins dead on the Mauritian shores

31 Aug : The tug Sir Geatan Duval collided with the barge towing and overturned 04 of the 08 person crew die

09 Sep : The vessel deviated from its approved navigation plan

Mark Orr raised some questions related to vessel change course to pass so close to the island in daylight, the contact between the vessel and the shore during the last 36 hours, the authorization of various course changes as she approached the shallow waters, attempt made the stabilize the vessel keeping the bow onto the reef during the heavy weather, attempt made to remove fuel from the lower fuel tanks to other compartments on the vessel, what happening in onshore, preparation undertaken in case of a spillage taking place, the POLMAR plan, if it’s really rolled in action to protect vulnerable sites. He concluded by exposing a map illustrating the deployment of 3348 MTS of booms and 12 skimmers in order to protect the sensitive areas in the island such as blue bay Marine Park, Pointe D’esny, Point Brocus and MPA.

Nikos Vlachos described the Poleyco’s role that was to ensure the shoreline cleanup of 21 km, to protect the lagoon area from oil mixed with sea water and to remove 2400 MT of hazardous waste. He underlined that the shoreline cleanup project lasted five months; from 28.07.2020 to 31.12.2020.

He also explained that the methodology adopted by Poleyco during the shoreline cleanup consisted of three stages:

  1. The first stage “called emergency phase” was devoted to collection of floating on sea surface and bulk oil ashore
  2. The second stage “called project phase” was designed for removal of oiled shoreline material and stranded oil
  3. The third stage “called polishing phase” was dedicated to the cleanup of light contamination and removal of stains

Nikos Vlachos described all the contaminated sites which have been cleaned by Poleyco highlighting a large difference from site to another in terms of sensitivity of the surrounding areas. He indicated that ten (10) sites were selected for the cleanup which were the following ones: “la Riviére des Creoles”, “Petit Bel Air”, Mahebourg, Point Jerome Peninsula-Preskil Holel, “Ile aux Aigrettes”, “Ile Mouchoir Rouge”, “Ile aux Fouquets”, “Ile des deux Cocos, Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny, For each site, He explained the types and nature of shoreline such as Mangroves, mud, sand, sandy sediments, limestone, basalt rocks, rip-rap, rocky surface and manmade structures.

Nikos Vlachos provided the level of contamination for each site based upon low, moderate and high. In addition, he specified the most appropriate shoreline cleanup technique used for each site, including manual collection, brushing, flushing & flooding, high pressure washing, wiping with absorbents and natural cleaning.

Nikos Vlachos concluded by highlighting the challenges faced during the project related to logistical issues of getting equipment and personnel to sites under COVID-19 restrictions, the local manpower, training and uncoordinated volunteers as well as the restrictions access to sites.

Mark Orr concluded the webinar by announcing that the MV Wakashio - Part 5 is scheduled at the end of May 2021 and will conclude as well as highlight some lessons learned of this incident.