Wakashio report released 3 years after landing in Mauritius Ship’s crew

Almost 3 years after wakashio After a bulk carrier ran aground off the coast of Mauritius and spilled oil, the Panama Maritime Authority’s investigation report into the accident has been released.

The bulk carrier was without cargo when it landed on a reef off Pointe d’Esny in Mauritius on July 25, 2020 during a voyage from Singapore to Brazil. The incident triggered an “environmental emergency” after the ship broke apart, spilling about 1,000 tons of fuel oil into the pristine waters about two weeks after hitting the ground.

The report largely confirms what was already known about the incident, which was that the ship was sailing too close to shore to pick up the cellphone signal so crew members could communicate with family and friends back home.

According to the report, the captain ordered the Chief Officer (OOW) to pass 5 miles south of Mauritius before attending a birthday celebration for one of the ship’s crew members. However, a misunderstanding of the correct course resulted in the ship sailing closer to shore than intended. The chief officer then failed to notice that the ship was heading for shallow water, probably because he was distracted by his cellphone. Although the master had returned to the bridge before the grounding, he did not notice that the ship had veered off course.

The investigation concluded that the probable cause was that the captain failed to recognize the risk of approaching the island and that the chief officer was distracted by searching for a cellular signal and communicating with family members. Even when monitoring electronic charts in the ship’s ECDIS system, which were displayed so extensively that they could not see that grounding was imminent, neither of them recognized the danger.

The report cited the captain’s and first officer’s lack of vigilance, the captain’s overconfidence, and inadequate ISM procedures as contributing factors to the incident.

It should be noted that both the captain and chief officer were sentenced to 16 months in prison for their roles in the accident.

It should also be noted that the incident occurred amid the crew rotation crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the report notes that the ship’s previous boatswain had jumped overboard a month before the accident, leaving the AB’s position vacant due to COVID-19 restrictions after the previous boatswain was promoted to boatswain.

Although the 2021 investigation report was submitted to the IMO, it has only now been made available to the public.

You can read the full report here.

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