A general view shows the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, in this handout image obtained by Reuters on August 10, 2020. French Army command/Handout via REUTERS

MOL Launches Charitable Trust in Mauritius After Wakashio Grounding

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June 28, 2021

By Vel Moonien in Mauritius,

Mitsui O.S.K Lines (MOL) has established a charitable trust in Mauritius, pending the launch of a MOL Japanese Foundation, to support environmental and social projects.

This move is explained by the fact that it had chartered the MV Wakashio that later ended up grounding on the reefs of Pointe-d’Esny, on the south-east coast of the Indian Ocean, island on July 25, 2020. The grounding resulted in an oil spill in its pristine lagoon, the first for this island highly dependent on tourism.

The Japanese shipping company says it has been working with the Wakashio’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping, and the Mauritian authorities on mangrove and coral reef rehabilitation projects on the southeast coastline affected by the oil spill. The trust will receive an initial funding of 300 million yen and will be managed locally by hand-picked professionals. A total of 800 million yen (approx. USD $7.24 million) will be injected in the trust.

Projects related to the restoration of the natural environment are on the agenda, but local communities in the southeastern part of the island will benefit from support for social projects, in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Mauritian government’s priority projects. The trust will also help strengthen Mauritius’ presence in the Indian Ocean Rim and foster relationships between the Mauritian and Japanese people, says MOL in a press release published June 21.

Funding for the trust will also be open to receiving donations from other companies and individuals. The trust will focus on the conservation of rare birds, including migratory birds. Community empowerment through social welfare and education, humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters, economic development through fisheries and tourism, environmental protection, promotion of ecotourism, preservation of cultural properties, and research in the field of renewable energy are amongst areas that the trust will fund.

In parallel, the Court of Investigation on the grounding of the ore carrier continues in the capital city of Port Louis. In recent days, the shortcomings of the National Coast Guard (NCG) have been highlighted. As for the Central Criminal Investigation Department (CCID), it has not recovered any additional data from the ship, whose dismantling of the stern is on hold due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Heard last Thursday, Joseph St-Mart, president of the Association of fishermen and boaters of the Southeast, said that traces of oil were seen at sea a month ago, near the site where the ship ran aground. The fishermen and the fishmongers are concerned about their future. For his part, the union negotiator of the port employees, Jean-Yves Chavrimootoo, talked about a similar the grounding, the one involving the MV Angel One in Poudre-d’Or, in the North tip of the island, ten years ago.

He explained that the tugs of the Mauritius Port Authority (MPA), the organization managing the harbor of Port Louis, have then been called to maintain and stabilize the 250-meter long bulk carrier so that it does not hit the reefs. According to him, these tugs should have been sent to Pointe-d’Esny for a similar operation to “prevent the hull from breaking”. He also cites the operation to stabilize the container ship MV Markella, which had lost its anchor in Baie-du-Tombeau, a village near Port-Louis.

“The ship was carrying rosewood to Mauritius. It drifted more than 20 nautical miles to Le Morne and was towed to Port Louis. The MPA lied when it said that there is no local expertise for this type of operation,” lamented the former journalist. He did not fail to criticize the Director of Shipping for having said that the Mauritian authorities could not board the “MV Wakashio”. He recalled the case of FV Kha Yang, a Malaysian trawler which ran aground in the St. Brandon archipelago, located 430 km north of Mauritius, six years ago.

For his part, the former assistant harbor master, Premananda Ponambullum, who retired in 2012, agreed with Jean-Yves Chavrimootoo. He pointed out that the MPA tugs would have been useful to “free the ship, with the rising tide”.

Last Friday, the ministerial cabinet decided that a first shipment of toxic waste from the Wakashio will leave Mauritius on July 2. They will be shipped in batches of 10 containers abroad. Under local environmental laws, this waste is considered hazardous, but cannot be treated in Mauritius, as the country does not have the necessary facilities.

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