Mauritius arrests captain of Japanese ship that spilled over 1,000 tons of oil

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By Alessio Dellanna  with Associated Press
The MV Wakashio off the southeast coast of Mauritius on Aug. 17, 2020
The MV Wakashio off the southeast coast of Mauritius on Aug. 17, 2020   -   Copyright  2020 Planet Labs, Inc via AP   -  

The captain of a ship that ran aground off the coast of Mauritius spilling more than 1,000 tons of oil in the Indian ocean has been arrested.

Authorities said he's been charged with "endangering safe navigation".

Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar is in custody pending a bail hearing next week, Police inspector Sivo Coothen said on Tuesday.

“We are carrying out a full investigation and interviewing all the crew members,” he added.

The Wakashio ran aground a coral reef on July 25.

The Japanese ship, after being pounded by heavy waves for several days, cracked and started leaking oil on August 6, spilling out over a quarter of its fuel cargo into the turquoise waters of the Mahebourg Lagoon.

Most of the remaining 3,000 tons of fuel were pumped off the ship before it split into two but environmental groups warned that the damage to the surrounding coral reefs may be irreversible.

The Wakashio was meant to stay 16 kilometres from the shore but was less than 2 kilometres from the coast when it sank.

Owner Nagashiki Shipping is investigating why the ship went off course and it has sent experts to help clean up the damage, while Mauritius' government is seeking compensation from the company.

Local authorities are under pressure to explain why immediate action wasn’t taken to empty the ship of its fuel before it began to leak.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth blamed the bad weather for the slow response.

Experts from France, Japan and the United Nations are currently involved in the clean-up work, while the UN Development Program has allocated $200,000 to address the immediate impact of the spill.