The authorities in Mauritius on Tuesday arrested the captain of the ship responsible for a massive oil spill off the country’s coast on July 25, AP reported. Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, 58, is an Indian.
Police inspector Sivo Coothen told the news agency that Nandeshwar, the captain of MV Wakashio, was charged with “endangering safe navigation”. His bail hearing is due next week.
Coothen added that the ship’s first officer was also arrested and all the crew members were being questioned.
The bulk carrier MV Wakashio was carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil when it ran aground on a coral reef. The ship spilled 1,000 tonnes of oil into the ecologically diverse and sensitive Mahebourg Lagoon, which is one of the most untouched coastal areas in the country. The ship split into two parts over the August 15-16 weekend and its bow is being towed away from the reef, according to BBC.
The ship has already leaked around 1,000 tonnes of oil into the marine ecosystem there. The spill has occurred near two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve, a wetland of international importance, BBC reported.
The police and the ship’s company are now investigating how the vessel went off-course. Crew members told the police that they had a party the day the ship ran aground. Investigators are also looking into to a theory suggesting that the ship went near the shore to catch an internet signal. The rear part of the ship, carrying about 90 tonnes of oil, is still stuck on the coral reef.
The Mauritius government is facing fierce criticism for its slow response to the ecological crisis. The citizens and local organisations, meanwhile, have volunteered help mitigate the damage, despite orders from the government to let the authorities deal with the oil spill.
On Monday, the United Nations announced that it would provide $2,00,000 [approximately Rs 1.49 crore] to Mauritius to deal with the oil spill.