The Captain and First Mate of the freighter, MV Wakashio that crashed into a coral reef off Mauritius, unleashing the Indian Ocean archipelago’s worst environmental disaster, were sentenced to 20 months in jail on Monday.
Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, the Indian Captain and Subodha Tilakaratna, the Sri Lankan First Officer of the MOL Chartered MV Wakashio were sentenced in the Intermediate Court of Mauritius on Monday. Both pleaded guilty on 20th December to the charge of endangering safe navigation. Since the two men have already been in police custody for almost 16 months and the guilty plea means leniency in the sentencing, the length of imprisonment are considered to have been completed.
“The court took into consideration the fact that both defendants pleaded guilty and apologized. The sentence handed down is 20 months in prison,” said magistrate Ida Dookhy Rambarrun.
After the sentencing, Amira Peeroo, lawyer for Tilakaratna said in a phone interview from Port Louis, “If we take into account the time spent on remand and remission for good conduct, the sentence may be seen as served”.
Following the oil spill, Mauritius dealt with widespread pollution which threatened the livelihoods of communities that depend on the ocean, and the Blue Bay Marine reserve, popular with snorkelers. The Mauritian economy relies on tourists who flock to its white-sand beaches is also reeling from the coronavirus fallout.
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The 300-meter long Japanese ship was on its way to Brazil from China when it strayed off course in the evening on 25th July, 2020 and hit a coral reef. Two weeks later, fuel oil started leaking with approximately 1,000 tons of oil reaching the shores. The vessel then broke into two and sunk.
According to media reports, Nandeshwar admitted to drinking and partying. He also confessed that the vessel sailed close to the Mauritian shores so that they could get mobile phone signals.