Wakashio captain and second captain to be released from Mauritius prison after being sentenced

the The captain and first officer of MV Wakashio should be released in Mauritius after their conviction on Monday.

After having already spent 16 months in detention, Captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar will be reunited with his family in India. Together with their first officer, the couple were sentenced Monday to 20 months in prison by the Tribunal de Grande Instance for the grounding of the MV Wakashio on the night of Saturday July 25, 2020 on the reefs of Pointe-d’Esny, in the in the south-east of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.

Magistrate Ida Dookhy Rambarun took into consideration the fact that the captain pleaded guilty on Monday December 20 before pronouncing the sentence. The same sentence was imposed on the first officer, Hitihamillage Subodha Janendra Tilakaratna, 45, who will be deported to Sri Lanka in a few days, while the prison administration calculates the time he has spent in police custody.

The magistrate deplored that the accident, at the origin of an oil spill, was due to non-compliant navigation, coupled with negligence. She noted that the captain had decided to approach Mauritius in order to be able to receive the Mauritian mobile telephone network even if he did not have the appropriate maritime chart on hand. He admitted to having approached the island 5 nautical miles in the past, when the internationally recommended distance is 12 nautical miles.

On the evening of the accident, the magistrate pointed out, the captain was attending a birthday party where alcohol was served while the co-pilot was at the helm. The captain also relieved the lookout officer from his duties so that he too could attend the birthday party for one of the engineers. The lookout officer was supposed to make sure there was no danger to the MV Wakashio, which was sailing so close to the coast of Mauritius.

Captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar found himself on deck, under the influence of alcohol, when the ore carrier ran aground on the reefs. As for Hitihamillage Subodha Janendra Tilakaratna, he admitted that the MV Wakashio was on autopilot. He also revealed that he was using the wrong map to be able to judge where the Mauritian reefs were located. He also did not consult the echosounder, which proved fatal, and did not object to the lookout officer being removed from his post.

The magistrate points out that the two men were distracted that night, being more interested in taking the mobile phone network. She said she regretted that the country had to “suffer irreparable damage” because of them and “draws the attention” of the authorities to the “flaws” in the control of foreign ships in Mauritian waters. She lamented the fact that they can get so close to our shores, which is a national security issue, without any rapid response from the Coast Guard.

She rejected the defense lawyers’ argument that the defendants should be sentenced for the offense committed and not for the damage caused by this accident. She believes that their “irresponsibility” is at the origin of the catastrophe which held the island in suspense and that they should have shown a better professionalism. The captain and the first officer both requested leniency from the court. Hitihamillage Subodha Janendra Tilakaratna, added that he was morally and physically tired, stressed by the plight of his family in the country, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Departing from the Chinese port of Lianyungang, Jiangsu, on Saturday July 4, 2020, the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier was en route to Tubarão, Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil, when it deviated from course after refueling in Singapore . The captain wanted his men to be able to use WhatsApp to communicate with loved ones, the majority having spent more than a year at sea due to the pandemic that had just spread from China across the globe.

The 203,130-ton vessel stopped 900 meters from Pointe-d’Esny. Without the reefs, the losses would have been more severe. One of its three tanks broke on Thursday, August 6, 2020 under the effect of the swell on the hull. 1000 tonnes of heavy oil spilled in the lagoon. The 300-meter-long by 50-meter-wide hull finally broke nine days later. The 225-meter forward section was sunk to a depth of 3,180 meters on the afternoon of Wednesday August 19, 2020, 20 nautical miles from the village of Vieux-Grand-Port.

This accident, let us remember, resulted in the death of four sailors on the night of Monday, August 31, 2020. The “Sir Gaëtan”, a tug of the Mauritius Ports Authority (MPA), in charge of the management of the port. de Louis, sank off Poudre-d’Or when damaged by a barge which he was towing due to heavy swells. The barge was on standby at Pointe-d’Esny after the oil spill. Three crew members were found drowned. The captain, Moswadeck Bheenick, has never been found.

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