The crew that caused Mauritius’ worst environmental disaster saw their sentences commuted
Kushal Lobine, who represents the insurers of the ship Japan P&I, said the sentences had been commuted for good behavior and 16 months of sentence served, allowing the couple to return home.
“Their departure is imminent. One captain will return to India and the other to Sri Lanka, their respective countries,” Lobin said.
The ship’s captain, Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, and the first officer, Hitihanillage Subhoda Janendra Tilakaratna, were found guilty of “endangering the safety of navigation”.
“This is the first time that we have faced a disaster of this type, and we are not sufficiently equipped to deal with this problem.” – Mauritian Minister of Fisheries Sudheer Maudhoo https://t.co/uqpkJXx6HU
“The captain and his second in command have been irresponsible and have not fulfilled their navigation duties as they should,” the magistrate said on Monday.
The MV Wakashio was sailing from Singapore to Brazil with 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil and 200 tonnes of diesel on board when it struck the reef off the south-eastern coast of Mauritius.
During the trial, the captain admitted to drinking at a birthday party on board and said he gave instructions to approach Mauritian waters in order to access a mobile phone network so that crew members can contact their families.
“The sea was bad, but the visibility was clear and the navigation was safe … At one point the vessel could not move and had touched the seabed,” Nandeshwar said.
“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.”
More than 1,000 tons of oil seeped into waters full of marine life due to a gash in the ship’s hull before rescue teams could remove any remaining fuel.
The accident occurred near two ecologically critical sites: Blue Bay, known for its coral gardens, and Pointe D’Esny, which is home to a mangrove forest, a crucial ecosystem as well as a weapon in the fight against global warming.
In the days following the crash, thousands of volunteers gathered along the coast wearing rubber boots and gloves, rubbing rocks and tying makeshift ropes to contain the oily tide.
Thousands of people also took to the streets over the following months to protest the government’s response to the disaster.
Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo said on Sunday that the vessel’s insurers had agreed to pay compensation worth 112,000 Mauritian rupees (around AU $ 3,500) each to hundreds of fishermen and fishmongers for the loss. of income caused by the oil spill.
The ship eventually split in two, and her bow and hull were towed 15 kilometers offshore and sunk.
The process of dismantling the stern section and removing it from the reef began earlier this year, but has been repeatedly postponed due to bad weather and heavy waves.