A Chinese fishing vessel has grounded off the coast of Mauritius, just months after bulk carrier Wakashio suffered the same fate, prompting an environmental crisis for the island nation in the Indian Ocean
Reports from local and international media and ship-tracking websites have pieced together events surrounding the Chinese long-liner Lu Rong Yuan Yu 588’s grounding on the reefs of Pointe-aux-Sables, a village to the west of capital Port Louis on Mauritius’ northwest coast.
The 40-m vessel’s grounding reportedly occurred in heavy swells and high winds associated with Tropical Storm Iman, which passed to the south of Mauritius on 7-8 March 2021. The heavy conditions are believed to have played a role in the vessel’s grounding.
Reports from website FleetMon and Mauritius-based correspondent Vel Moonien cite distress calls from the vessel’s captain on the evening of 7 March, and local news outlet lexpress.mu related accounts from Mauritian locals who made attempts to aid the vessel and its crew, purportedly fearing an oil spill like the one caused in July 2020 by the grounding of 203,000-dwt Capesize bulk carrier Wakashio, whose protracted and difficult salvage and recovery has resulted in local lawsuits and environmental damage to the sensitive maritime ecosystems surrounding Mauritius.
Both locals and the Mauritian National Coast Guard reportedly sent boats to assist the 16 mariners aboard Lu Rong Yuan Yu 588 but were turned back by the heavy conditions. Ultimately, the Mauritius Police Force scrambled a helicopter to rescue the crew who have been quarantined in a local hotel.
With a reported 130 tonnes of fuel on board, Mauritian authorities have deployed oil spill containment measures according to statements and interviews with Mauritian Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping Sudheer Maudhoo.
Minister Maudhoo told Reuters that reports of spilled oil were "nothing to be worried about" and confirmed an investigation was underway regarding the incident. Local press reported that removal of the fuel aboard Lu Rong Yuan Yu 588 had been expected to get underway on 9 March.
Multiple sources have reported that the vessel’s hull was intact on initial inspection by divers and that fuel pumping efforts will take multiple days to complete.
Writing for website GCaptain, Vel Moonien reported that salvage experts from Greek company Five Oceans Salvage were expected to go on board the grounded vessel to assess the damage 8 March. Five Oceans Salvage tug Ionian Sea FOS is already on site, Mr Moonien said, but was unable to intervene on Sunday night because of the adverse weather conditions.
He also reported that the Mauritian Coast Guard had requested the assistance of a tugboat from the Mauritius Ports Authority, the body which runs the Port-Louis harbour, for the salvage operation.