Satellites make new revelations for Wakashio grounding

To remind, the bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground off Mauritius early in the evening of 25 July 2020, attracting significant media attention for several weeks following the occurrence, as fuel oil started leaking from the vessel in the environmentally sensitive region and adverse weather conditions impeded proper response.

Newly released Geollect analysis has now revealed the Wakashio appears to have suffered an engine failure prior to its grounding, a scenario which the owner MOL has denied, attributing the incident to solely “to safety and navigational issues“.

We’ve identified a period of five and a half hours where the vessel was drifting at a 90 degree angle – something that indicates an engine failure. Engine failure could shed light on other factors around the grounding, such as loss of communication equipment and speed changes. It also raises further questions for the ship’s owners,

…Geollect said.

Specifically, the data allegedly reveal that the Wakashio grounded to a sudden halt in the middle of the Indian Ocean on July 17, three days after fueling in Singapore and eight days before it ran aground. Therefore, there was a period of five-and-a-half hours over 60 miles that is unexplained for the vessel, in which satellite data identified an unusual drifting pattern of the vessel.

These reports follow a series of media allegations this month. Earlier in January, a media article reported that MOL knew the oil onboard exceeded engine safety limits and they were concerned during the Wakashio’s final voyage that this fuel could cause serious engine failure, which they attempted to communicate to the ship’s crew.

The same media report suggested that oil major BP formally blocked the investigation into the fuel that was being used onboard the large bulk carrier, an accusation also denied by the company.

In December, MOL stated that the probable cause of the incident was the crew’s unsafe behaviors due to overconfidence that stems from complacency, while it issued a thorough list of safety measures to prevent such incidents in the future. The measures announced aim, among others, to address the lack of safety awareness and boost ship operation quality.

The cause of the incident is being investigated by local authorities and is expected to become public in the Mauritius courts in due course.

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