KEIGO YOSHIDA, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, the Japanese shipping group involved in a major oil spill off Mauritius, has decided to provide further aid for the cleanup effort and may establish its own relief fund.
Mitsui O.S.K. will also join with a private-sector company to dispatch investigators to assess the scale of damage to nearby coral reefs.
These initiatives expand an effort by Mitsui O.S.K, which chartered the stricken ship, to help restore the reefs, the crown jewel of Mauritius’ tourism-based economy. The shipping industry was already under fire before the disaster from critics that accuse it of contributing to global pollution.
The company is apparently considering direct assistance to the Indian Ocean island nation’s tourism and other industries as well.
The Mitsui O.S.K-chartered bulk carrier Wakashio ran aground on a reef July 25 and has spilled more than 1,000 tons of fuel oil since Aug. 6. The ship was en route to Brazil after unloading cargo at a port in China’s Jiangsu Province.
Oil has reached Mauritius’ mangrove forests and elsewhere along the coastline. Cleanup work is underway.
Under the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, responsibility for the accident falls on the vessel owner. Nagashiki Shipping, headquartered in Japan’s Okayama Prefecture, is expected to pay damages.
If a liability case is brought under the convention in a Mauritius court, the compensation would likely face a cap of about 2 billion yen ($18.8 million). That amount would not be enough to help Mauritius recover from the spill, observers say.