Who’s in charge here? In a hearing to determine how the 984-feet-long Wakashio bulk carrier ran aground in Mauritius last July, the captain said he set a course near land so the crew could pick up a cell phone signal to call home. But then he blamed the Chief Officer for changing course and running aground. More than 1,000 tons of heavy oil leaked from the vessel. Here’s the account from gcaptain.com:
By Vel Moonien in Mauritius –
The captain of the ill-fated bulk carrier M/V Wakashio told a Mauritius court that he navigated the ship closer to land to allow his crew members to pick up cell phone service so they could connect with loved ones back home, but said ultimately it was his Chief Officer who ran the ship aground back in July.
Captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar appeared for the third and final time before the Court of Investigation set up to investigate the accident, where the 59-year-old Indian national again testified that he decided to maneuver the ship close to land to pick up cell phone signal as a gesture to the ship’s crew, who were working beyond the initial scope of their employment agreements. However, according to the captain, fault lies with the first officer.
Captain Nandeshwar said that if Chief Officer Subodha Janendra Tilakaratna had followed his instructions, the ship would not have grounded at all because, in the captain’s view, the vessel’s course was altered, bringing it within 1.5 nautical miles of the coast of Mauritius.
He said he did not intervene that night because the Chief Officer was an experienced sailor. He also pointed out that although the Chief Officer had consumed alcohol, he was not under influence on the night of the accident. The consumption of alcohol, he explained, is allowed on board under certain conditions.
The Wakashio was unladen when it ran onto a reef off Mauritius’ Pointe-d’Esny on July 25, 2020, while en route from China to Tubarão in southern Brazil. The vessel initially appeared stable, but after spending weeks on the reef, it eventually broke up, resulting in the release of some 1,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil which seeped into Mauritius’ lagoons and created an environmental disaster. Read more: