Reuters in a recent report says Mauritius has 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, police said on Tuesday.
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.
“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 told Reuters.\
The Mauritius coastguard had repeatedly tried to reach the ship to warn that its course was dangerous but had received no reply, a maritime official with knowledge of the incident who asked not to be named told Reuters.
The other man arrested was the deputy captain, he said, adding the two men were charged with endangering safe navigation.
The official confirmed that the crew had been questioned about reports they were having a birthday party on board, but said it was not clear yet if the party had been held at the same time that the ship ran aground or earlier in the day.
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.