Wakashio report by the Panama Maritime Authority issued 3 years after Mauritius grounding

Overview of the damage to the Wakashio
Overview of the damage to the Wakashio

Almost 3 years after bulk carrier, the Wakashio, ran aground and spilled oil along the coast of Mauritius, the Panama Maritime Authority’s investigation report into the accident has been made public. The bulk carrier was not carrying cargo when it grounded on a reef off Mauritius’ Pointe d’Esny during a voyage from Singapore to Brazil on July 25, 2020. The incident sparked an “environmental emergency” after the ship broke up and spilled approximately 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the pristine waters. The report does not contain any major surprises and much of what happened has been reported previously. In short, the ship sailed too close to shore in an attempt to pick up a mobile phone signal so crew members could communicate with family and friends at home.

According to the report, the Captain ordered the Chief Officer (OOW) to pass 5 miles south of Mauritius before attending a birthday party for one of the ship’s crew members. However, a misunderstanding over the correct course resulted in the ship sailing closer to shore than intended. The Chief Officer then failed to realize that the ship was heading towards shallow waters. Although the Captain had returned to the bridge before the grounding, he also failed to realise that the vessel was off course.

The investigation found the probable cause to be the Captain’s failure to recognize the risk of passing close to the island, as well as the distraction of the Chief Officer caused by his search for a mobile phone signal and communication with family members. Both also failed to notice the danger when monitoring electronic charts in the ship’s ECDIS system that indicated a grounding was imminent.

The report cited the lack of vigilance by the Captain and Chief Officer, the overconfidence of the Captain, and inadequate ISM procedures as factors that contributed to the incident. Both the Captain and Chief Officer were sentenced to prison for their roles in the accident and served 16-months in jail.

Download the report: Wakashio investigation report

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