Mitsui OSK to spend $9.4 mln on Mauritius clean-up after oil spill

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd said on Friday it would spend about 1 billion yen ($9.42 million) on measures to help Mauritius, including the clean-up of the island’s mangrove forests and contribution to an environmental recovery fund.

FILE PHOTO: A drone image shows materials prepared by volunteers to handle leaked oil from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, which ran aground on a reef, at the Riviere des Creoles, on the Mahebourg waterfront, Mauritius, August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Reuben Pillay

A bulk carrier owned by Japan’s Nagashiki Shipping and chartered by Mitsui OSK ran aground on a reef in Mauritius on July 25 and later began leaking oil, causing a marine ecological disaster around the Indian Ocean island.

“The owner of the ship takes primary legal responsibility, but we, as the charterer of the ship, have to bear a social responsibility and take proper measures, as this accident has significantly impacted the environment and people’s life in Mauritius,” Mitsui OSK President Junichiro Ikeda told a news conference on Friday.

Mitsui OSK plans to contribute about 800 million yen over several years to establish a Mauritius natural environment recovery fund and another 100 million yen to several local NGOs and funds established by public agencies such as Mauritius government and United Nations.

It will send more employees to Mauritius to replace some of the 13 staff already sent, it said in a statement earlier.

In addition, the shipping company plans to provide further support to local fishing and tourism industries, though details will be worked out later.

The Panamanian-flagged MV Wakashio began spilling fuel oil on Aug. 6, prompting the Mauritian government to announce an environmental emergency.

Media reports this week said initial investigation results by Panamanian authorities questioned the level of seamanship onboard the Wakashio.

The investigation has confirmed earlier reports that the crew were having a birthday party when the accident occurred and the Wakashio had diverted from its approved navigation plan, the reports said. Reuters has not been able to confirm the latest reports but earlier reported the birthday party.

The captain and another member of the crew have been arrested by Mauritius police. The crew were supplied by maritime services company Anglo-Eastern Group, and the Hong Kong-based company has not responded to several requests for comment by Reuters since Thursday.

“We have recognised a media report about the investigation by Panama’s authority, but we would like to wait for the results of the inquiry by the Mauritius government,” Nagashiki said through its public relations company, MTI Network.

Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding but that the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades.

Japan has told Mauritius it would offer support on an “unprecedented scale”, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Monday.

($1 = 106.1500 yen)

Reporting by Yuka Obayashi and Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Gerry Doyle