Mauritius on Tuesday arrested the captain of a Japanese bulk carrier that ran aground off its coast, causing a devastating oil spill in one of the world’s most pristine maritime environments.
“We have arrested the captain of the vessel and another member of the crew. After having been heard by the court they have been denied bail and are still in detention,” Inspector Siva Coothen said.
The other man arrested was the deputy captain. The two men were charged with endangering safe navigation.
The MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on July 25 and began spilling oil on Aug. 6, prompting the government to announce a state of environmental emergency.
The spill spread over a vast area of endangered corals, affecting fish and other marine life in what some scientists have called the country’s worst ecological disaster. Emergency crews managed to remove most of the ship’s remaining oil before it split in two on Saturday.
Mauritius’ National Crisis Committee said two companies, International Tankers Owners Pollution Federation Ltd and Le Floch Depollution, will start cleaning three sites on the shoreline on Wednesday and will be joined by local groups including fishermen.
Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades. Removing the ship is likely to take months.
Authorities noted it was the second accident in the area in four years and said the government might establish a signal station nearby to try to ward off future disasters.