Mauritius oil spill: Captain that crashed ship into a coral reef sentenced to 20 months’ jail

The captain of the ship that had crashed into a coral reef and caused a massive oil spill has been sentenced to 20 months of jail.

According to magistrate Ida Dookhy Rambarrun, “The court took into consideration the fact that both defendants pleaded guilty and apologised. The sentence handed down is 20 months in prison.”

She found captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar and first officer Hitihanillage Subhoda Janendra Tilakaratna guilty of “endangering safe navigation.”

Also read | Amid environmental emergency, Mauritius oil spill expands 10 times its original size

“The captain and his second in command were irresponsible and did not deliver as they should on their ‘navigational duties’,” the magistrate said on Monday.

In response, Nandeshwar said “The sea was bad, but the visibility was clear and it was safe to navigate… At one point, the ship could not move and had touched the seafloor.” 

“Since I had had a few drinks, it did not seem worthwhile to intervene and it did not occur to me that we were sailing that close.”

Also read | As India rushes aid to Mauritius, oil spill causes ‘poisonous shock’ to marine life

The vessel, chartered by Mitsui OSK Lines Ltd, ran aground on a reef in Mauritius on July 25 last year.

The ship was carrying about 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil along with diesel to power its engines. One of its oil tanks, containing about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil, ruptured after it ran aground.

The spilt oil had spread over a vast area of endangered corals, affecting fish and other marine life in what some scientists have called the Indian Ocean island’s worst ecological disaster.

The owner and operator of the ship was Nagashiki Shipping, a Japan-based private company.

Japanese experts had to work with local groups to remove oil from the Mahebourg Lagoon and the waters around the Isle aux Aigrettes wildlife sanctuary for over six months.

(With inputs from agencies)

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