They were found guilty of the worst oil spill the coast of Mauritius has ever seen. The captain and the mate of the ship Wakashio – whose stranding in the summer of 2020 is at the origin of the disaster – were sentenced, Monday, December 27, to twenty months in prison, Agence France-Presse learned from the court.
“The court took into consideration that both defendants pleaded guilty and apologized. The sentence handed down is twenty months in prison ”, said judge Ida Dookhy Rambarrun. The Japanese bulk carrier ran aground on July 25, 2020 on a coral reef in the south-east of Mauritius, releasing more than 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil into its crystal-clear waters.
The Indian captain, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, who admitted during the hearing that he had been drinking during a party organized on board the ship, was thus found guilty of “endangering the safety of navigation”, of same as his second Sri Lankan Hitihanillage Subhoda Janendra Tilakaratna, by a court in Port Louis.
Some 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil on board
the Wakashio, Japanese bulk carrier under the Panamanian flag, was en route from Singapore to Brazil, with some 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil and 200 tonnes of diesel on board. “A birthday party had taken place on board and I had consumed alcohol in moderation”the captain said during his trial, adding that he had given instructions to approach Mauritian waters in order to access the telephone network, to allow crew members to contact their families.
“The sea was bad but the visibility was clear and the navigation could be done in safety (…) At one point, the ship could no longer move and had touched the seabed ”, he added. “As I had had a few drinks, it didn’t seem useful to intervene and it didn’t occur to me that we were sailing so close. “ The two men apologized for the accident.
This oil spill was the worst maritime pollution in the history of the country, which depends on its waters for its food security and for ecotourism, in an area which is among the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. The south-eastern coast of Mauritius has two classified sites: Blue Bay, known for its corals, and Pointe d’Esny, rich in mangroves – crucial ecosystems in the face of global warming.
From the first days, the inhabitants had mobilized, working tirelessly with makeshift resources to contain the pollution. In the months that followed, thousands of people demonstrated on the island, criticizing in particular the government’s handling of the oil spill.