Photo of the crane vessel working to remove Wakashio's stern. Photo credit: Vel Moonien

Wakashio’s Owner Limits Liability Over Grounding as Wreck Removal Continues

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November 22, 2021

By Vel Moonien in Mauritius –

Okiyo Maritime Corp, the Japanese company which owns the MV Wakashio, filed a motion before the Supreme Court of Mauritius last week to limit the claims arising from the accident at Pointe d’Esny to 719.6 million rupees, the equivalent of $16.6 million.

Chartered by Mitsui O.S.K Lines (MOL), the 203,130-ton and 300-meter-long ore carrier was sailing from China for Brazil when it veered off course while trying to pick up the Indian Ocean’s island’s cell phone network on the night of Saturday, July 25, 2020. It ended up on the coral reefs in the southeast of the island. 

A few weeks later, one of the ship’s tanks ruptured due to the swell, spilling 1,000 tons of heavy oil into the lagoon and causing the worst ecological disaster Mauritius has ever witnessed. Subsidiary of Nagashiki Shipping, Okiyo Maritime Corp is pleading for the creation of a $16.6 million’s fund to pay compensation to the State of Mauritius, recalling that it ratified the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims (LLMC) 19 years ago. The Japanese company’s claim will be debated on January 10, 2022, State Counsels having to analyze the affidavit sworn by Okiyo Maritime Corp. 

In the meantime, the dismantling of what remains of the stern started in early November, after months of stand-bye due to bad weather conditions. It was stopped again a few days ago because of unfavorable weather. Some 2,500 tons of metal parts, including the main engine, were removed by the team of Chinese companies Lianyungang Dali Underwater Engineering and Hong Kong Lidada Ocean Engineering. A small amount of fuel oil leaked into the lagoon on November 3rd, angering locals, but it was quickly cleaned up by the Greek company Polyeco, which recovered 530 liters at Pointe-d’Esny and Rivière-des-Créoles. Part of the keel remains to be removed, but all depend on weather conditions. 

As of November 11th, claims for approximately 2 billion rupees ($46.1 million), have been made to the insurer of the MV Wakashio by 4,686 companies, organizations and individuals through the Ministry of Ocean Economy and Fisheries. The Japan P&I Club, the ship’s insurer, has been slow to pay up, with some 83 million rupees (more than $1.9 million) having been paid to certain individuals, and Minister Sudheer Maudhoo is having difficulty concealing his annoyance. Reacting in the National Assembly, he explained that the insurer is systematically questioning the artisanal fishing method in Mauritius by comparing it to what is being done in Japan. 

Last June, MOL created a philanthropic trust in Mauritius, pending the establishment of a Foundation, to support environmental and societal projects. It says it has worked with Nagashiki Shipping and the Mauritian authorities for projects to rehabilitate the mangrove and coral reef on the southeast coast affected by the oil spill. This will be done through a fund of 800 million yen ($7 million). The initial fund is 300 million yen ($2.6 million) and the trust will be managed locally by hand-picked professionals. 

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