Japanese ship leaking oil off Mauritius breaks apart

A Japanese bulk carrier that ran aground over three weeks ago, leaked tonnes of oil near Mauritius has split apart.

MV Wakashio, the carrier struck a coral reef off Mauritius on July 25 and its hull began to crack after days of pounding waves. About 1,000 tons of heavy oil are estimated to have spilled from the ship, threatening the mangroves and marine life around.

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has requested international assistance in the clean up operations. France and Japan have responded to Mauritius’s call for help.

The Mauritius government last week declared an environment emergency, raced to safely secure the remaining fuel onboard. Thousands of volunteers rushed to the shore to create makeshift oil barriers. As of Saturday, about 90 tonnes of oil remained on board, much of it residue from the leakage.

The ship – owned by a Japanese company but registered in Panama – was empty when it ran aground, but had some 4,000 tonnes of fuel aboard.

In a statement, the ship’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping, said that “due to the bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tank of the vessel has been breached and an amount of fuel oil has escaped into the sea”.

“Oil prevention measures are in place and an oil boom has been deployed around the vessel,” it said.