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IMO PROVIDES EXPERT CONSULTATION FOR MAURITIUS OIL SPILL

Tuesday, August 18, 2020 

IMO says it is continuing to support international efforts to respond to the oil spill in Mauritius, following the break-up of the MOL bulk carrier 'Wakashio'.

IMO and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) have jointly deployed an expert, who is advising the Government of Mauritius on the mitigation of the impacts on the environment and coastal communities. The oil spill response expert has been on the scene since 12 August, providing technical advice, taking part in a number of field visits and operational meetings, and liaising with the various stakeholders involved in the response efforts.

Reports indicate that most of the oil on board the Wakashio had been removed before the vessel broke in two sections on 15 August. It is estimated that more than 3,000t of fuel have been extracted, but some residue and other oil remain in the stern section.

The focus of operations on scene is now moving towards salvage and removal of the ship, as well as continued recovery of floating oil and beach clean-up. The affected area is located in a very sensitive zone that includes the Blue Bay Marine Park, Ile aux Aigrettes, and the Ramsar sites.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: "I would like to commend all those involved in the international efforts to support the Government of Mauritius and to mitigate the impact of the oil spill from the MV Wakashio. I look forward to a full investigation into the incident so that the results and findings can be brought to IMO and we can act on any recommendations."

IMO continues to collaborate with other UN entities, including OCHA, UNDP and UNOSAT, and other stakeholders involved in the response effort. A number of countries, including France and Japan, are also assisting Mauritius, which has activated its national oil spill contingency plan.

Alongside IMO and OCHA, the ship owner and International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) are mobilising environmental and oil spill experts. SMIT Salvage has been appointed by the vessel owner to oversee the salvage operations.

The IMO's liability and compensation regime is partly in play for this incident. The Wakashio has compulsory insurance under the 2001 Bunkers Convention concerning all material damage and pollution claims up to the applicable limits in accordance with relevant instruments (including LLMC) and national legislation in force. Given that the ship involved is a bulk carrier, other international conventions specific to pollution damage caused by oil tankers (such as the IOPC Fund regime) do not apply in this case.

The Wakashio ran aground on 25 July off Pointe d’Esny natural area, on the south-eastern coast of Mauritius and started leaking oil following severe weather conditions. An estimated 3,894t of low-sulphur fuel oil, 207t of diesel and 90t of lubricant oil were on board.

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