Saturday, 25 March, 2023

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Ecological disaster: UN to support Mauritius fishing industry

The United Nations has promised to assist the Mauritius fishing industry recover from the ecological disaster following an oil spill on the Island’s coastline.

To this end, a recovery fund will be set up to ensure fishing communities can regain their livelyhoods.

On July 25, Japanese ship – MV Wakashio was grounded off the Mauritius coast; spilling over 1000 tonnes of oil.

For an economy that is mainly dependent on tourism as its economic mainstay, the oil spill not only puts its $1.2 billion annual earnings in peril, it has also impacted aquatic life in the area.

Bearing this in mind, Charles Kwenin, Regional Director of the International Organisation for Migration for Southern Africa and Acting Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for Eastern and Southern Africa, said efforts would be directed towards the complete clean-up of the coastline to not only recalibrate the economy, but also ensure aquatic life is not completely lost.

Mr. Kwenin, while meeting with the Mauritian Prime Minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, at the New Treasury Building, in Port-Louis, said the UN would also liaise with other global partners to fast-track the Indian-Island nation into a high-income economy.

Already, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), France and Japan have all promised to support.

One key issue that has arisen from this incident is the international regime on liability and compensation for oil pollution damage caused by persistent oil spills from tankers.

Due to the fact that the Japanese vessel involved in the spill is a bulk-carrier and not an oil tanker, Mauritius will not be compensated by the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC) and the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage (FUND) .

That means she will miss out from the statutory $286 million compensation.

Instead, the Mauritius oil spill incident will be covered by the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001.

Under the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution damage – the BUNKER convention – the ship owners Nagashiki Shipping will compensate the state of Mauritius.

While the ship owners have agreed to address compensation ‘based on the relevant laws,’ evacuating the ship wreck would be another herculean task as this could take several months to accomplish.