Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Mauritius Arrests Captain of Ship Behind Devastating Oil Spill

Oceans
Mauritius Arrests Captain of Ship Behind Devastating Oil Spill
The captain of the vessel behind a devastating Mauritius oil spill left court after being charged Tuesday. RISHI ETWAROO / L'Express Maurice / AFP via Getty Images

The captain of the ship that ran aground off Mauritius and caused an environmental crisis when oil began leaking close to the island nation's unique marine ecosystems was arrested, both police and the captain's lawyer said on Tuesday.


The captain, 58-year-old Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar of India, was charged with endangering safe navigation, BBC News reported. Chief officer Tilak Ratna Suboda of Sri Lanka was also arrested, according to The New York Times.

"We have arrested the captain of the vessel and another member of the crew. After having been heard by the court they have been denied bail and are still in detention," Inspector Siva Coothen told Reuters.

Nandeshwar was arraigned in a district court in the Mauritius capital of Port Louis. Both men will appear in court again Aug. 25, Nandeshwar's lawyer Ilshad Munsoor told The New York Times.

The MV Wakashio ran aground on one of Mauritius' reefs July 25 and began leaking oil less than two weeks later. It is estimated that at least 1,000 tons of the roughly 4,000 tons on the ship spilled into the Indian Ocean. The rest was removed before the ship split in two over the weekend, except for 90 tons still on the ship.

Rough weather conditions have made the remaining oil unsafe to remove, BBC News reported.

"Due to the adverse weather conditions, it is still risky to remove the remaining small amount of residual oil in the engine room," the National Crisis Management Committee said on Monday.

While other major oil spills have been worse in terms of total oil released into the environment, this spill was catastrophic because it occurred near two protected marine ecosystems and one wetland of international importance.

Scientists say damage from the spill could impact Mauritius' marine life and related tourism for decades, according to Reuters.

"This oil spill occurred in one of, if not the most, sensitive areas in Mauritius," oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo told Reuters Aug. 13. "We are talking of decades to recover from this damage, and some of it may never recover."

It still isn't clear why the ship passed so close to shore when it ran aground.

The Mauritius coast guard tried repeatedly to warn the vessel that it had charted a dangerous course, but received no reply, an anonymous maritime official told Reuters.

"The route set five days before the crash was wrong and the boat navigation system should have signaled 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.

Crew members told police there had been a birthday party on the ship the day it ran aground, BBC News reported.

However, it is unclear if the party happened during the accident or before, according to Reuters.

Another theory is that the ship traveled closer to shore to pick up a WiFi signal, but the maritime official told Reuters that finding a signal would not have required sailing so close to the shore.

In Mauritius, people are angry at what they perceive is a slow government response to the spill and they are hungry for answers.

"Will we know the truth?" Reuben Pillay, who owns a company called Reubs Vision that offers virtual tours of the island, told The New York Times. "We think that there is more to this story."

A crowd of climate activists march behind a banner in NYC during Climate Week on September 20, 2020. Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Breanna Draxler

After decades on the political periphery, the climate movement is entering the mainstream in 2020, with young leaders at the fore. The Sunrise Movement now includes more than 400 local groups educating and advocating for political action on climate change. Countless students around the world have clearly communicated what's at stake for their futures, notably Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who just finished her yearlong school strike for climate. Youth activists have been praised for their flexible, big-picture thinking and ability to harness social media to deliver political wins, as Sunrise recently did for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's primary campaign. They necessarily challenge the status quo.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Presidential nominee Joe Biden has not taken a stance on gas exports, including liquefied natural gas. Ken Hodge / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Simon Montlake

For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.

All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables will boost the immune system. Stevens Fremont / The Image Bank / Getty Images

By Grayson Jaggers

The connection between the pandemic and our dietary habits is undeniable. The stress of isolation coupled with a struggling economy has caused many of us to seek comfort with our old friends: Big Mac, Tom Collins, Ben and Jerry. But overindulging in this kind of food and drink might not just be affecting your waistline, but could potentially put you at greater risk of illness by hindering your immune system.

Read More Show Less
A graphic shows how Rhoel Dinglasan's smartphone-based saliva test works. University of Florida

As the world continues to navigate the line between reopening and maintaining safety protocols to slow the spread of the coronavirus, rapid and accurate diagnostic screening remains critical to control the outbreak. New mobile-phone-based, self-administered COVID-19 tests being developed independently around the world could be a key breakthrough in making testing more widely available, especially in developing nations.

Read More Show Less
A meteorologist monitors weather in NOAA's Center for Weather and Climate Prediction on July 2, 2013 in Riverdale, Maryland. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

The Trump White House is now set to appoint two climate deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in one month.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch