Mauritius oil spill caused by crew wanting mobile signal

While the investigation into the incident continues, the Japanese operator of a bulk carrier that struck a coral reef and caused an extensive oil spill says the accident occurred after the ship shifted its course 3.2km closer to shore so its crew members could get mobile phone signals.

‘Two days before the grounding of Wakashio (July 23), she changed her passage plan-the distance from the coast when sailing off the island of Mauritius-from 22 nautical miles (Note 1) to 5 nautical miles,’ says a statement issued by Mitsui O.S.K Lines.

‘On the day of grounding (July 25), she tried to further reduce the distance from the coast from 5 nautical miles to 2 nautical miles, to enter an area within the communication range of mobile phones and used a nautical chart without sufficient scale to confirm the accurate distance from the coast and water depth. In addition, a crew member neglected appropriate watch-keeping (visually and by radar), even though she was trying to sail 2 nautical miles off the coast. As a result, she ran aground in shallow water (10m deep) 0.9 nautical miles off the coast of Mauritius.’

The company says its investigation shows the accident was caused by human error, including inadequate nautical charts, navigation systems and risk awareness, and a lack of supervision and safety monitoring.

It will invest about 500 million yen ($4.8 million) to provide electronic nautical charts, training to strengthen safety culture and other systems to enhance safety.

The environmental disaster began July 25 when the ship struck a coral reef a mile offshore. After being pounded by heavy surf for nearly two weeks, the ship’s hull cracked and leaked fuel into a lagoon, polluting a protected wetlands area and a bird and wildlife sanctuary.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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