17th August 2020:India is sending over 30 tonnes of technical equipment and material on board an IAF C-17 Globemaster Aircraft to Mauritius to contain the oil spillage along the Southeastern part of the island nation.
Given the specialized nature of the equipment and a requirement of trained manpower to operate it, the 10-member Technical Response Team of Indian Coast Guard (ICG) personnel, specially trained for dealing with oil spill containment measures, has also been deployed to Mauritius along with the material assistance.
Mauritius is facing one of the worst kinds of oil spillage disasters in recent times ever since a bulk carrier vessel owned by a Japanese company, Okiyo Maritime Corp/ Nagashiki Shipping ran aground on the reef at Pointe d’Esny on the Southeastern part of the country. The spot is close to ecologically sensitive reserves and prominent tourist destinations. The 300 m long vessel was sailing to Brazil with no cargo but approx 4000 metric tons of fuel for its use onboard. Early salvage operations to pull the vessel out from the reef could not yield results followed by a period of rough weather and heavy sea swells that prevented the evacuation of oil from the vessel. A day after a breach in the vessel and oil leakages were observed in excess around the ship on August 6th, the Mauritian government declared this an Environmental Emergency.
The Indian High Commission in Mauritius remained in constant touch with the Mauritian authorities on the situation since the beginning. Emergency rounds of consultations were undertaken with Mauritian authorities to ascertain the situation. As an immediate step, Indian Oil’s Mauritian subsidiary, Indian oil Mauritius Limited (IOML) was asked to extend all possible assistance to the local government. On 7 August, the day Mauritian government declared this an Environmental Emergency, IOML moved its barge ‘Tresta Star’ which was successfully evacuated 1000 tons of fuel oil from the intact tanks by August 10.
India has been the largest development partner of Mauritius as it has been a net provider of humanitarian assistance as well as disaster relief in the Indian Ocean region. There was a huge expectation in Mauritius, particularly from the dominant Indian Diasporas, for urgent assistance from India to salvage the ecological disaster. As soon as the Mauritian government’s request for assistance with specific requirements was received, immediate coordination was carried out between Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Indian Coast Guard, and Ministry of Defence to assess the material and equipment that could be immediately supplied as well as the fastest means to transport it to Mauritius. Foreign Secretary himself remained in touch with Chief of Defence Staff in real-time to take stock of the situation.
The latest lot of equipment sent from India is being provided by the Indian Coast Guard which is the designated national authority for oil spill response in Indian waters. The equipment includes Salvage barge and 10000 Oil absorbent pads. The high capacity oil absorbent pads, manufactured in India, are specially designed using graphene which is extremely useful in salvage operations in and around beaches where oil has spread. These pads can also prove to be highly useful for the local communities in cleaning up the polluted beaches and lagoons.