More than 1 000 tons of fuel have reportedly already leaked from the bulk carrier vessel, MV Wakashio, according to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination on Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released today (August 11).

A CNN report today quoted Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former Mauritian MP saying: “The way the leakage and the break in the ship are increasing, there is huge probability that this ship will break into two. And we still have around 2 500 metric tons of fuel in the tanks of the ship.” The report said the ship had three oil tanks, one of which had leaked into the ocean. That leak has since been stopped, and an operation is now under way, utilising a tanker and salvage teams, to remove the oil from the other tanks before the ship breaks up.

OCHA’s analysis indicates that leaked oil is expected to move north up the east coast and could affect the coastal regions of Grand Port, Bambous Vireux and Flacq. Strong currents on August 9 were pushing the oil slick toward Rivière des Creoles.

Although the sea conditions improved faster than expected, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth told media on August 10 that there was a need to prepare for the worst-case scenario, as the vessel was likely to break apart at some point, OCHA’s report said.

Terry Munro, MD of Beachcomber Tours, told Tourism Update: “Mauritius government, the Mauritians, and the fishermen are all doing their utmost to minimise the damage to the marine life and beaches. The oil is being confined and the spreading hugely reduced. The government, with substantial foreign help, is trying to remove as much of the oil as possible from the oil tanker before it breaks up and they have already removed a substantial amount of the oil.

“At this stage we don’t know what the exact damage will be to the beaches, so we are certainly not now thinking of cancelling clients’ holidays. If the beaches are badly affected Beachcomber would offer clients a move to another hotel. But it is far too soon to start worrying about this, and for many clients their holiday is a lot more than just the beach. Shandrani, which is the Beachcomber hotel that will be most affected, is well loved by so many South Africans for the vast number of experiences it offers clients. South Africans still cannot travel to Mauritius and I don’t see this happening in the near future with the lockdowns, and I am sure that most of the oil spill would be cleaned up well before this date in any event.”

Joanne Adolphe, CEO of Thompsons Holidays, told Tourism Update that it was still waiting for official press releases from its properties. “But considering Mauritius is not open to South Africans yet due to borders being closed, and our bookings are for November and December onwards, we really anticipate that the island will be sorted by then,” she said. “We understand that they are doing as much as possible with international assistance to clear up their environment, and we have no doubt that our partners on the ground will be as flexible as possible should a client’s trip be compromised.”

Ramesh Jeenarain, MD of World Leisure Holidays, told Tourism Update that none of the beaches and resorts in WLH’s portfolio had been affected by the oil spill.

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