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Wakashio master and first officer plead guilty

The two men will be sentenced on December 27. This would end the criminal proceedings stemming from the grounding last year, Mauritius’ worst environmental disaster

Master and chief officer of bulk carrier Wakashio, which spilled about 1,000 tonnes of oil off Mauritius last July, both pleaded guilty to endangering safe navigation. They face two years in prison plus a fine. The master’s lawyer submitted he had effectively served the sentence already

THE master and chief officer of Wakashio (IMO: 9337119) have pled guilty to endangering safe navigation.

Master Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar and chief officer Hitihanillage Subhoda Janendra Tilakaratna pled guilty to the formal charge under the Merchant Shipping Act 2007.

They face two years’ imprisonment as well as a fine. The sentence will be made on December 27 at the Intermediate Court of Mauritius.

The two men previously faced the provisional charge of violation of innocent passage — which could have resulted in a fine of about 50m Mauritian rupees ($1.13m).

The July 25 grounding of the Panama-flagged, 230,130 dwt Wakashio, which spilled about 1,000 tonnes of oil off Pointe d’Esny, on the island’s south east coast, causing the country’s worst environmental disaster.

Capt Nandeshwar’s lawyer, Ilshad Munsoor, told Lloyd’s List the court had not previously taken a plea, and the laying of the formal charge marked the end of the criminal investigation against the two men.

He said Capt Nandeshwar has already spent some 500 days in police custody.

“We have submitted [that] he’s already served his sentence,” Mr Munsoor said in a phone interview.

“The captain has shown his remorse in court, he has tendered his apology for the people of Mauritius.”

The sentencing will mark the end of the criminal proceedings, but civil liability claims may still arise.

On November 15 the Wakashio’s owner, Okiyo Maritime Corp, a subsidiary of Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping, applied to the Supreme Court of Mauritius to limit claims arising from the incident to MUR719.6m ($16.6m).

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