Most oil on damaged ship off Mauritius removed, owner says

TOKYO (Reuters) - Most of the fuel left on a Japanese bulk carrier that has leaked an estimated 1,000 tonnes of oil off the Mauritius coast has been pumped off, ship owner Nagashiki Shipping said on Wednesday.

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said on Tuesday that the MV Wakashio was still holding 2,000 tonnes of oil and was expected to break up, raising concern of a major ecological disaster.

“I heard the collection is almost over, but it is hard to tell if there is absolutely no oil left on the ship,” Yoshinori Fukushima, a spokesman for Nagashiki, said.

The ship was being operated by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd when it struck a reef and went aground off the southeast Mauritius coast on July 25. Jugnauth declared a state of emergency last Friday.

Oil from the stricken vessel has reached some of the Indian Ocean island’s most pristine beaches, threatening corals, other local wildlife and the country’s tourism industry.

Former colonial ruler France has said it will assist Mauritius with the clean up and Japan said it will send experts to help. The International Maritime Organization is providing technical advice.

Japan P&I Club, the only organisation in Japan that underwrites protection and indemnity (P&I) insurance for ocean-going vessels and coastal ships, said it had yet to estimate the cost of the clean up.

“We are trying to make internal estimates under different scenarios ...including the worst and the best, but we don’t have any figures yet that we can disclose,” spokesman Koichi Miyahiro said.

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Toby Chopra and John Stonestreet