MAURITIUS — A Japanese cargo ship that caused an ecological disaster in a tropical paradise, ran aground and created an oil spill because its crew steered closer to land to get better cell phone signal, its owner said.
The MV Wakashio ran aground on July 25 and began leaking oil on Aug. 6, eventually spilling 1,000 tons of fuel oil into the pristine waters around the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Four sailors were later killed when a tugboat sank during efforts to clean up the spill.
Japan’s Nagashiki Shipping, which owns the ship, a 1000-foot bulk carrier used for transporting iron ore, said the crew changed direction to sail close enough to Mauritius to get cell phone coverage.
The company blamed the disaster on a lack of safety awareness by the crew and a failure to follow rules. The firm promised better training and oversight.
“There was a lack of awareness of the dangers of navigating close to the coast … and insufficient implementation of regulations that must be observed in order to safely execute voyages,” the company said.
The company says it will ban private use of cell phones during working hours on bridges and install high-speed communications systems on all its ships, as well as beef up training.
The clean-up, which includes returning about 20 miles of mangrove coastline to its former state, will likely be mostly completed by January, Nagashiki said last month.