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Mauritius to revise oil spill preparedness in wake of Wakashio disaster
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Mauritius to revise oil spill preparedness in wake of Wakashio disaster

Revision of National Oil Spill Contingency Plan required

MAURITIUS: The need to revise the country’s National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) was highlighted by the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Local Government and Disaster Risk Management, Dr Mohammad Anwar Husnoo at the National Assembly this week.

The Vice-Prime Minister was replying to the Private Notice Question on recommendations made by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Centre (NDRRMC), following the MV Wakashio shipwreck in July 2020. Dr Husnoo stressed that the revised NOSCP should be based upon scenarios where oil spill has already occurred and as well as when there is a threat of oil spill due to an aground/vessel in fire/etc.

He said that the plan should clearly define the roles, responsibilities and actions by stakeholders before, during and after oil spill emergencies.

A preliminary inquiry released last year made 21 recommendations for improving safety in Mauritian waters. It found that the main reason why the casualty occurred was because of the failure to continuously monitor the ship’s position due to social distractions on the bridge, and this was a failure in implementing the vessel’s safety management system procedures for maintaining a proper look out while at sea.

Dr Husnoo noted that the Department of the Environment and the Director of Shipping have the legal mandates to deal with ship wreck and oil spill disasters. He underlined how the two institutions dealt with the MV Wakashio situation through coordination of sourcing and deployment of available resources and logistics from local authorities and other agencies.

According to the Vice-Prime Minister, the facilities of the National Emergency Operations Command (NEOC), established within the NDRRMC, are made available when the Department of Environment activate the NOSCP. The NEOC was activated for a total of 25 days after the grounding of the MV Wakashio while an extended NEOC, through the Mobile Command Post, was deployed at Blue Bay Marine Park from 10 August to 24 August 2020.

A total of 62 Situation Reports together with daily briefs were prepared and sent to high officials at a 12-hour interval from the 25th of July 2020.

He added that the NEOC also provided support for the arrival, COVID-19 quarantining and deployment of foreign experts.

Moreover, the Vice-Prime Minister listed the lessons learnt by the NDRRMC following the oil spill incident. These include, the need for harmonisation of legal provisions; more convergence in terms of priorities between the Director of Shipping and the Director of Environment; pre-identification of coastal suitable facilities in the South, West, East and North of the Island to be used as the Command Centre for managing future oil spills; an in-depth study on the vulnerability of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega and St Brandon to oil spills based on maritime activities/routes; timely and consistent information from a number of stakeholders; the development of a NEOC Oil Spill Incident Action Plan; and regular simulation exercises on oil spill incidents so that stakeholders better understand their roles and responsibilities.

The Vice-Prime Minister also spoke about the Preliminary Inquiry Report on the grounding of MV Wakashio, in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act and the Merchant Shipping (Preliminary Inquiries and Formal Investigations of Shipping Casualties) Regulations 2017, which was submitted on 27 August 2020.

The preliminary inquiry made 21 recommendations for improving safety in Mauritian waters. It found that the main reason why the casualty occurred was because of the failure to continuously monitor the ship’s position due to social distractions on the bridge, and this was a failure in implementing the vessel’s safety management system procedures for maintaining a proper look out while at sea.

It is noted that the police enquiry is still ongoing as well as the works of the Court of Investigation, established to investigate into, and report on, inter-alia, the circumstances leading to the grounding of the MV Wakashio off the coast of Pointe d’Esny on 25 July 2020 and the breach of its hull.

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