Mauritius is in a fight for the survival of their much-needed tourism industry. The people of Mauritius showed resilience when strict rules and discipline kept COVID-19 out of the country. This resilience is now tested again.
Mauritius is known for its stunning beaches and relies heavily on tourists for income. It was just announced that tourism will reopen in October when a Japanese freighter registered in Panama spilled 1000 tons of oil off the Mauritian coast.
Thousands of students, environmental activists, and residents of Mauritius were working around the clock Sunday, trying to reduce the damage to the Indian Ocean island from a fuel oil spill after a ship ran aground on a coral reef. The SKAL Club in Mauritius has taken an active role, according to eTurboNews sources.
A quick cleanup is important both environmentally and economically and this is an environmental catastrophe this remote island group had never experienced.
There is help on the way from neighboring Reunion what is a French overseas territory and part of the Vanilla Island Group.
Japanese Mitsui O.S.K. Lines will send experts and staffers to investigate a massive oil spill by a vessel it operated off the coast of Mauritius, the company said Sunday, responding to an incident that made headlines around the world and dealt a devastating blow to the local environment
“We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” said Akihiko Ono, an executive vice president at Mitsui O.S.K., in a news conference here.
The Wakashio ran aground on a reef off Mauritius on July 25, damaging a 1,180-ton fuel tank. Despite efforts to funnel fuel out of this tank, only 50 tons or so of fuel was apparently recovered.
Mauritius’ coast guard had warned the Wakashio that it was approaching shallow waters before the incident, according to some reports.
The leaked oil has reportedly spread far, with a portion already reaching the coast. Sea booms have been put in place to keep the oil from reaching sensitive areas.
Mauritius declared a state of environmental emergency Friday and is asking France and the United Nations for help. Local cleanup efforts have already begun, with volunteers moving turtles, birds, and other animals to safety.
But chemicals employed to break up the oil can also hurt coral reefs. “We won’t be able to use them unless we get the green light from the authorities in Mauritius,” Nagashiki Shipping President Kiyoaki Nagashiki said.
French President Emmanuel Macron urged swift action to save biodiversity in a Saturday tweet.
“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons. . are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security, and health.
Mitsui O.S.K. and Nagashiki Shipping have not said how much cleanup efforts are expected to cost. When the Russian-flagged tanker Nakhodka sank in the Sea of Japan back in 1997, spilling about 6,200 tons of oil, agreed-to damages payments reached 26.1 billion yen ($246 million at current rates).
Generally, the vessel owner would be the one expected to pay damages. Payments will likely be capped at 2 billion to 7 billion yen for a ship of the Wakashio’s size under a 1976 convention on liability for maritime claims, according to Michio Aoki, an attorney who is an expert on accidents at sea.
Mitsui O.S.K. could also come under fire for its role in the accident. The company said that it had kept track of its 800-vessel fleet every few hours and that it wants to respond appropriately, given the heavy impact of the spill.