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Mauritius Oil Spill, Worst in the History of the Country


The UN Trade Body UNCTAD (United Nations Conference of Trade and Development) highlighted the need for adoption of stronger global legislation to govern the sea and safeguard the islands depending upon them. The statement came due to the devastating oil spill off the east coast of Mauritius.


MV Wakashio (Bulk Carrier) was grounded in July in an ecologically sensitive and diverse area. This endangered marine life, the health of the population, and security. The region depends on tourism which brings in $1.6 billion and is already been devastated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Shamika N. Sirimanne, the Director of Technology and Logistics, UNCTAD said global participation is the need of the hour is the already existing international legal frameworks, all countries need to come in agreement so that the vulnerable nations can be protected.


Worst Oil Spill in the History of Mauritius

UNCTAD termed the spill as the worst in the history of Mauritius. The country is known for its beautiful beaches and its economy thrives due to tourism. The area is also home to thousands of exotic marine lifeforms.


The MV Wakashio, the Japanese owned Bulk carrier flying under the Panamanian flag, was traveling from China to Brazil, when it was grounded in the region on 25th July. The location was extremely close to the internationally protected wetlands which have marine parks. The cause of the spill is still unknown.

The Devastation Caused

The ship had an estimated 3894 tons of fuel oil, 207, tons of diesel, and 90 tons of lubricant oil. It was not carrying any cargo. By 11th August 2000 tons of the fuel leaked and spread in the whole area. Most of the oil was recovered, a statement was given by the owner of the vessel.

UNCTAD reiterated how the disaster is indicating the need for effective legislation. The framework is especially needed to protect the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Oil spills are extremely dangerous to these nations. UNCTAD is responsible for supporting the developing countries to gain a fair chance in the global economy. The SIDS is often too close to the global shipping routes, hence very vulnerable to disasters. The biodiversity is what makes them unique.


Different Ships have Different Legislations

Numerous international laws govern the seas and how the carriers operate in these regions. Most of these laws are endorsed by all countries, but some are yet to be accepted. Moreover, there are different legislation subjected to different legal conventions. This problem was especially faced in this case.


Legal Challenges

MV Wakashio spill fell under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage. The compensation may have been less if it was an oil tanker. While the bunker convention will provide for $65.7 million as compensation, the payout is much higher under International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds, which is around $286 million.

Goal 14, Life Below Water

The UNCTAD emphasized the need for accepting the Sustainable Development Goals 14 which aims to protect the life below water. The oil spills have a huge potential to cause irreversible damage to the marine population, which can create an adverse effect on the ecological balance, and hence affect us badly as well. The oceans and seas are already polluted due to the waste disposal, oil spills are the last thing the marine lifeforms need.

Author: Subhasri Banerjee

Data and Numbers: UN

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