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A new video was released this week of the immediate aftermath on board the massive Japanese vessel, the Wakashio, as it crashed into Mauritius’ coral reefs.
Although video of the exact moment of the collision was not released, the immediate aftermath and conditions on board the vessel was captured the next day on July 26 when the sun rose.
The Wakashio hit the coral reefs in darkness at 7.15pm on July 25 having sailed for 12 days from its last refueling stop in Singapore. After 12 days on the reefs, the vessel split apart on August 6, unleashing the worst oil spill in the Mauritius’ history.
The 18 minute video (linked below) appears to be six video files compiled together. Together, they show the state of the Wakashio on board the vessel, as nervous Mauritians watched from the shore.
However, the video does not reveal the inside components of the engine that were raised in a previous article about the state of the pistons, piston rings and other key components of the engine.
Overview of video
There are six section of the video, each filmed in different parts of the vessel at what appears to be different times.
0’ to 5’06” – Departure from Singapore and passing through the Malacca Straits (July 14 – 16)
5’06” to 7’58” – View from deck of Wakashio on the day following the grounding (Sunday July 26)
7’58” t0 9’23” – State of Wakashio’s engine room immediately following the crash (before August 2)
9’23” – 12’23” – Video below the engine room where water starts to appear and piping that is being repaired (before August 2)
12’23” – 14’05” – Attempts to pump water from the bottom of the vessel (before August 2)
14’05” – 18’21” – Crew preparing to depart the Wakashio via Mauritius Police Force helicopter (on August 2)
Public records show that the crew was airlifted from the Wakashio on August 2, four days before oil started leaking from the vessel on the morning of August 6, despite assurances from the salvage company who had been appointed by the vessel’s insurer that the vessel was not at any risk of a major oil leak.
Notable features within the video
Kitesurfers: The images of the Kitesfurfers at 7 mins are consistent with images and videos of and by kitesurfers at that spot taken on Sunday 26 July and widely shared. This was a popular kitesurf location.
Waves: The power of the waves onto the coral reef can be seen, and it is clear that the currents would not change direction. This can also be seen in helicopter footage from the air taken on July 26, the day after the grounding (video below).
This shows how badly off the almost 100 international consultants were coming into Mauritius and not consulting local expertise. The representative sent by the UN’s global shipping agency, the IMO, made comments to senior members of the Mauritian business community that he thought the ship would drift off the reefs (1st minute of this video).
However, some of the most senior members of Mauritius’ maritime community (who have not been consulted during the botched salvage operation), can be heard clearly expressing their frustration that it was well known the Wakashio was never leaving the reefs of Mauritius without being towed (20th minute in this video). Why did the IMO and other international organizations in Mauritius not consult local expertise. With all the media scrutiny, they were aware who had deep scientific and technical knowledge of the area, yet deliberately steered away from consulting local expertise.
Instead, we see Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) running Origami classes in a special needs elementary school, rather than leveraging the power of their vast global network to find the world’s best coral experts to help with a comprehensive monitoring and rehabilitation plan over the 125 square kilometers that are still closed off from local fishermen or tourist boat operators. As one of the leading maritime technology investors who have proudly boasted about advanced autonomous technologies, why aren’t MOL mobilizing autonomous monitoring vessels like Saildrone to monitor fish biomass along Mauritius’ South East coast? This is not the first oil spill caused by a MOL-operated vessel. However, their response is giving the impression that it is.
In a response to Forbes on October 11 on whether they planned to engage more advanced marine monitoring and rehabilitation technologies, MOL said, “We aim to do so based on cooperation with various authorities and parties.” It was not made clear how that cooperation would take place or what the process would be.
Engine type. At 8’08”, this is the first glimpse of the engine. It appears to be a two stroke, 6-cylinder engine. At 9’21”, the large metal exhausts that take the toxic fumes from the burnt fuel to the chimney outside can be seen. This metal exhaust normally contains a range of filters along the system.
It is unclear whether a scrubber technology has been fixed to the vessel to reduce harmful emissions, as legally required by the UN’s IMO. Not having a scrubber installed would be a serious breach of international law, given how toxic this type of oil is. Wakashio’s vessel owner, Japan-based Nagashiki Shipping was approached, but no response has been received.
Leaking water. The next part of the video from 9’23” takes place underneath the engine. This is the bottom part of the boat, known as the ‘bilge.’ It is clear throughout that the water is already murky, which indicates it could either come from the bilge water, burst ballast tanks or leaking hydrocarbons. There had been no official mention of leaking hydrocarbons before August 6, and these videos appear to have been taken before August 2.
Broken valves. At 11’22,” a large, prominent white valve appears to be broken with traces of hydrocarbons on. It is unclear how that valve could have broken, but it appears to be a clean break. Fatigue or stress fractures could be one of the potential reasons for such a clean break.
State of maintenance and ad hoc repairs. From videos of the outside of the vessel, the rust that can be seen is an indication of a vessel that was not being tightly maintained. In his book on maritime incidents, Tankship Tromedy, former MIT Professor and Oil Tanker owner, Jack Devanney, talks about the importance of painting ships white, so that rust can immediately be seen and addressed. This is another example where design thinking could lead to safer shipping.
At 10’39”, there also appears to be a concrete block that had been fitted in at the side of the well. This would have been some sort of maintenance fix, but raises questions whether this was a patch maintenance, or being maintained to the shipbuilder’s original specification.
Pumping operation. At 12’21”, there is a close up of the pumping operation. An unidentified individual is down in the well pumping water out. It is clear that a large pipe is loose, which he shakes. Water is gushing in. The Wakashio was carrying 20 crew, 3 Indians, 1 Sri Lankan, and 16 Filipino crew. It is unclear whether the individual is one of the original crew from the Wakashio.
Departure from the Wakashio. The video concludes with the crew carrying their luggage onto the deck (14’06”) as a helicopter from the Mauritius Police Force lands to pick them up. Press reports indicate that the crew were evacuated from the Wakashio on August 2nd. By that time, the Wakashio had drifted for several hundred meters along the hard barrier coral reefs in that region. The crew were taken into quarantine in Mauritius, which could explain the white medical coats.
The Bridge of the Wakashio before the crash
Other videos have been widely circulating on the Wakashio, which starts to build a more complete picture of what could have occurred on the bridge that fateful night of July 25.
This 5 minute video shows the Wakashio within its first five years of service and gives an indication of what the bridge was like.
Key features to notice
0’12” The Electronic Mapping System, or ECDIS. This system has been under intensive scrutiny after reports from Panama suggested the wrong scale in the electronic maps were being used when the Wakashio collided with Mauritius.
2’24” The Chart Room. Although paper charts are shown in this video posted in 2012, only electronic charts were permitted since then.
2’38” The VHF Radio System. that attracted a lot of attention after the Wakashio Black Box VDR claimed not to be able to have picked up any audio from it from the Mauritius Coastguard.
2’41” Laptops being used. With the Inmarsat satellite internet packages to support seafarers during Covid-19, it is unclear why the Wakashio would have had to steer so close to the Mauritian coast.
2’54” Engine Controls. This control panel determines the speed of the vessel, including the ability to reverse the vessel, but turning the propellers in the opposite direction. The data from this instrument would be of interest given questions about whether engine malfunction could have been an issue.
4’19” Ship Steering. This is the control that determines how the Wakashio would be steered, and raises questions why it did not change course as it headed toward Mauritius.
Life on board a Bulk Carrier like the Wakashio
In this video posted by Captain Tymur Rudov of a 2008 built Capesize Bulk Carrier (one year after the Wakashio), the key functions of the vessel are explained.
Key features to notice
5’21” Bunkering station. This is where the polluting fuel that spilled onto Mauritius’ reefs went in during the refueling stop in Singapore on 13 and 14 July.
8’21” Engine room. This shows how the engine room should have been looking for the Wakashio.
9’00” All ships systems are monitored. This will be critical evidence for the Wakashio enquiry to conduct a forensic analysis of the ship’s systems.
10’56” Ballast Water Controls shows how carefully ballast water should be controlled.
11’24” Revelation that the thickness of the hull is only 22mm for a vessel 300 meters long. The design of these Capesize Bulk Carriers have been a major concern, and raise serious questions about the role of the IMO, the ship registrar, Panama Maritime Authority, and the ship inspector, Class NK, for allowing such unsafe vessels to operate on the ocean without stronger supervision.
11’47” Software existed to monitor major stresses on the vessel. Why was this software not alerting the crew of the Wakashio that the vessel was drifting almost a kilometer over 12 days and putting undue pressure on the vessel?
13’40” The inside of a Ballast Water Tank. With the image of the water gushing below the engine room of the Wakashio, this video shows what it’s like within the ballast water tanks.
22’00” The Navigation Bridge. Captain Rudov gives an overview of the key instruments on board a Bulk Carrier. These include the bridge and wheelhouse, the Electronic Chart Systems (ECDIS) that has attracted controversy in Mauritius, the radar, the steering wheel, key radio equipment (GMDSS) and the chart table that is now used for computers and other internet-related activities.
The effect on the Wakashio
There had been several videos taken of the crack in the Wakashio getting progressively wide as the vessel hogged on the reef.
Ships can either hog or sag on a reef when they start to fill with water, which would stress the hull, and should have been picked up early by the salvage teams, given that details about the vulnerability of such vessels are easily available at a click of a button.
The following videos capture the crack getting worse and the attempts to pump the oil from on board the Wakashio, as the oil started to flow onto Mauritius’ pristine coastline. The final video is of the Wakashio in Port Hedland, Australia, one of its principal operating bases close to Australia’s largest iron ore mines.
So far, no party has claimed responsibility for the incident, nor appear to be putting any serious effort to engage local Mauritians in a holistic response and rehabilitation plan, the result of which has sparked nationwide protests and over 100,000 to take to the streets in protest.