Insurer Says MV Benita Grounding a Medical Issue, Not Mutiny

The MV Benita aground in  Mahebourg, Mauritius.
The MV Benita aground in Mahebourg, Mauritius.

The insurer of a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier which ran aground last week in Mauritius following an apparent brawl on board says that the incident was the result of a serious medical episode suffered by one of the vessel’s crew members, and not the result of a wider conflict. 

The circumstances of the grounding have led the media to dub the MV Benita the ‘mutiny ship’, suggesting that the grounding was the result of some sort of rebellion by one or some of its crew members. But in statement provided to gCaptain, the insurer of vessel, the London P&I Club, fought back against such claims saying the grounding was actually the result of a medical situation. 

“The grounding followed an incident on board involving a crew member who suffered a serious medical episode which led to him attacking one colleague before causing extensive damage to the engine room systems that led to a loss of power to the vessel,” the statement said. “During the intervening time that it took to restore power, the vessel went aground. The injured crew member is receiving medical attention ashore for this seizure. There was no suggestion of a wider conflict on board and all the remaining crew members are safe and accounted for.”

The 44,000 DWT MV Benita was in ballast when it unexpectedly went aground last Friday evening (June 17) in Mahebourg, Mauritius during a voyage from India to South Africa. 

MV Benita Pictures
Credit: Five Oceans Salvage

The owners, crewmembers and The London Club as P&I insurers are currently working with the appointed salvors, Five Ocean Salvage, and the local authorities to re-float the vessel and to prevent further environmental damage. According to the insurer, some limited oil sheens have been reported in the vicinity of the vessel and the priority for salvors is to remove the 145 tonnes of fuel oil which remains on board. 

A statement by Five Oceans Salvage says that the latest reports indicate that a number of cargo tanks have been damaged and are flooded, however as of Wednesday the MV Benita appears to be stable and remains firmly aground. Meanwhile, the remaining oil on board is in the process of being pumped from the fuel tanks to specialized containers on the vessel that will then be removed by helicopter. A dedicated tug, the 10,560 bhp Ionian Sea FOS, is in place to provide the MV Benita with stability and control as the operations are ongoing. 

MV Benita pictures2
Credit: Five Oceans Salvage

Since vessel was in ballast and not carrying any cargo at the time of the grounding, salvors do not need to focus on the removal of cargo. 

Anti-pollution booms remain in place around the vessel and any oil that accumulates is being collected and removed by dedicated teams. Meanwhile, a plan to re-float and remove the vessel from the shoreline is being developed by the salvage team in conjunction with the authorities.

The salvage operation is being led by senior salvage master Nikolaos Pappas.

A screengrab of the MV Benita's AIS data leading up to the grounding. Credit: MarineTraffic.com
A screengrab of the MV Benita’s AIS data leading up to the grounding. Credit: MarineTraffic.com