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By Vel Moonien in Mauritius –
Three Taiwanese trawlers have run aground on reefs off Mauritius’ Bain-des-Dames and Pointe-aux-Sables, at the entrance of the Indian Ocean island’s Port-Louis’ harbor.
The vessels had drifted due to the strong swells produced by the passage of tropical cyclone Emnati last week. All three have were ordered to leave Port-Louis while the tropical cyclone was passing nearby the island and awaiting their turn to come back to the harbor when they grounded.
The fishing vessel Weng Hung Dar n°168 launched a distress signal at about 2:15 Wednesday morning. By midday, some of its 25 crew members had been airlifted by the Police Helicopter Squadron (PHS). Meanwhile two more fishing vessels, FV Maan Yu Feng n°1 and FV Maan Yu Feng n°168, grounded on the reefs of nearby Pointe-aux-Sables, off Grande-Rivière-Nord-Ouest.
Three helicopters were needed to rescue some of the 28 crew members on board the two trawlers. Some crew members even threw themselves into the water where they thought they would be safer as swells crashed against the vessels.
Coastguards had to recover them with the help of the Special Mobile Force (SMF), the paramilitary unit of the Mauritus Police Force, and teams from the Mauritius Ports Authority (MPA), the organization that manages Port-Louis’ harbor.
A crisis committee has then been set up under the supervision of the Director of Shipping, Alain Donat, in order to coordinate the rescue efforts and to ensure that these groundings will not cause any oil spills.
Divers from the National Coast Guard (NCG) were called to inspect the hulls, but no damage was noted.
FV Weng Hung Dar n°168 is reported to have 80 tons of fuel on board, compared to 20 tons each for the two other trawlers. Greek company Polygreen, which has a regional headquarters in Mauritius, was awarded the contract for their salvage. Its subsidiary, Polyeco, will work on pumping of the fuel and has nstalled some 300 meters of anti-pollution buoys in the area.
Polygreen’s tug, Vasileos P, which had been dispatched to Reunion Island for the salvage of Mauritian bunker barge Tresta Star, was expected in Pointe-aux-Sables Wednesday evening.
The Greek company will also deploy its divers to inspect the hulls before the salvage operations.
An investigation has been opened by the Director of Shipping and the MPA to determine responsibility behind the three accidents.
For some, the blame is on authorities. “It is absolutely necessary to protect the area, because many artisanal fishermen live in Bain-des-Dames, Grande-Rivière-Nord-Ouest and Pointe-aux-Sables. Mauritius gives fishing permits to foreign trawlers and this is what we get in return. Our reefs are once again damaged”, says Judex Rampaul, a spokesman on behalf of local fishermen.
Eleven months ago, Pointe-aux-Sables witnessed a similar grounding with the FV Lu Rong Yuan Yu 588, a Chinese trawler, which found itself on those same reefs following the strong swells from the passage of the tropical depression Iman. Its 16 crew members had to be airlifted.
The incidents also follow the grounding of the MV Wakashio at Pointe-d’Esny, in the Southeastern part of the island, in July 2020. In Pointe-aux-Sables again, a violent fire completely destroyed the Taiwanese longliner Ruey Chien Tsai 112, some 200 meters off the shore, in August 2021.
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