This is a breaking news story and will be updated with the latest developments.
In an incredible new development overnight on Monday 31 August, a major operation is underway in Mauritius as a barge carrying oil from the stricken Japanese iron-ore vessel The Wakashio collided with a tug boat pulling it.
The tug boat – which had been involved in the Wakashio salvage operation – has sunk in the coral lagoon and a major operation is underway to rescue the 8 crew from the water under darkness.
There is still much confusion about the circumstances and events of the sinking.
According to reports from local media present on the scene, the Mauritius Port Authority tug boat, called the ‘Sir Gaetan Duval,’ was towing the oil barge back to the harbor capital city, Port Louis.
It had been travelling from the location of the Wakashio oil spill in Pointe d’Esny in the South East of the country, and was heading North around the island.
Both vessels appeared to be around 30 miles North of the original crash site of the Wakashio when they ran into trouble. This is around 20 miles North of where dozens of whales and dolphins had washed up dead on Mauritius’ coasts in the past few days.
According to a statement released by the Mauritian Port Authority, the oil barge was called the ‘l’Ami Constant’ and owned by Mauritian maritime services company, Taylor Smith. The statement also confirmed that the vessel was transporting oil from the Wakashio.
Satellite tracking of the ‘Sir Gaetan Duval’ boat reveal the unsteady path following the collision.
Local media are reporting at least three coastguard vessels, other tug boats, local fishermen and multiple Mauritian Government helicopters and aircraft are involved in the major rescue operation which is taking place under the cover of darkness in the North of the island.
According to the Head of the Mauritius National Coastguard, all crew had been wearing life vests at the time of the tug boat sinking.
20 days in the dark on how much oil was spilled
Since 11 August (20 days ago), there had been no update on the amount of oil on board the Wakashio, in the ocean or on the oil barges. Neither had the details of the fuel transfer operation been disclosed, meaning the public is not aware of how frequently the oil barge had been transporting oil back and forth between the Wakashio and the capital city, Port Louis, to give an indication whether all the oil that had been collected from the Wakashio had been spilled into the ocean or just a smaller fraction.
This lack of transparency from local authorities, the international consultants on the scene, SMIT Salvage, Le Floch Depollution, Polyeco, ITOPF and advisers from the International Maritime Organization, French Government and Japanese Government who are all involved in the massive salvage and cleanup operation, have frustrated Mauritians on the scene and internationally who had been trying to understand the gravity of the situation, and are having to rely on information out from the media. There had been many offers of help internationally that appears to have been ignored or sidelined as the salvage and clean up appeared to veer from one catastrophic response to the next.
None of the international consultants from SMIT Salvage, Le Floch Depollution, Polyeco, ITOPF have responded to questions from the media. Shipowner Nagasaki Shipping has not…