Home » Wakashio oil spill: Lack of transparency claimed on alleged faulty fuel

Wakashio oil spill: Lack of transparency claimed on alleged faulty fuel

Nishan Degnarain, Wakashio Oil spill

BP and Mitsui Osk Lines (MOL) deny allegations over faulty fuel involved in the Wakashio oil spill by Forbes’ contributor, Nishan Degnarain, in a series of articles published by Forbes investigating BP. Contacted by Aufait.media, Nishan Degnarain raises questions about refusal by BP to publicly provide fuel sample and claims lack of transparency.

“If BP says they have not done anything wrong, why hasn’t the sample of the fuel that they should have kept from the July 14 refueling of the Wakashio in Singapore, been provided publicly to authorities in Mauritius or Australia (as authorities in Mauritius had requested help from)?” said Nishan Degnarain, Development Economist focused on Innovation, Sustainability, and Ethical Economic Growth. 

Forbes published a series of articles investigating BP, as the company is said to have allegedly supplied faulty fuel to the vessel Wakashio. The articles also report that BP, as well as Mitsui Osk Lines (MOL), were aware of the situation and tried to communicate it to the crew. It is said that while trying to connect with the companies, the ship changed course and headed towards Mauritius which then caused the shipwreck. The alleged faulty oil, Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil which entered the market in 2020, may have also been a reason for the shipwreck. 

Following the worst ecological disaster in Mauritius, last August 2020, where Japanese vessel Wakashio grounded in the South-East of the African island-nation, a series of articles by Forbes suggested that BP, a company that provides customers with fuel for transport, energy for heat amongst others, was implicated. The MV Wakashio had made port in Singapore and was refueled by fuel produced by BP. 

According to Forbes, documents that came to light revealed that the oil on the Wakashio was known to be faulty from the moment the vessel set sail from Singapore to the Indian Ocean. The article also mentions that the Ship Operator, Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), was aware that the oil had exceeded the engine safety parameters and they were worried that the fuel could cause serious engine failure, which they attempted to communicate to the crew. 

In a statement, released on the 12th of January 2021, BP rejected “ the baseless allegations and insinuations contained in this article.” Following the same stance of BP in this matter, MOL issued a statement, in which it “fundamentally disagrees with and rejects the analysis made in the article based on the misleading interpretation of unconnected information and comes to seriously flawed conclusions.” Both companies included the line of action they’ve taken to respond to the incident in their statement. 

BP acknowledged that it had supplied fuel oil to the bulk carrier Wakashio on the 14th of July in Singapore but maintained that it was the limit of its involvement with the vessel and the voyage in question. The company also maintained that its fuel quality met the specified standard that is recognized across the international bunkering industry. 

“This was confirmed by separate analyses carried out by BP and an independent inspection company appointed by MOL. MOL raised no concerns about the quality of the oil, nor have the operators of seven other vessels that received the same fuel. A number of the properties of the oil that are alleged in the article do not correspond with these analyses.” said BP in its statement.

On the same matter, MOL stated that there is an ongoing investigation by the Mauritian Authorities which is expected to become public in due course. 

“MOL has and will continue to fully assist with such investigations and rejects any assertion that it has attempted to impede or hinder these steps,” said MOL in its statement

Though both companies have released statements in an attempt to reject the allegations, Nishan Degnarain the author of Forbes stories on that issue maintains that BP has not denied that their fuel exceeded the critical safety parameters for ship engines. “If BP has nothing to hide, why haven’t they published their own analysis of the oil?” he tells Aufait.media. 

As mentioned in his article concerning BP formally blocking the investigation into the fuel that was being used onboard the large Japanese bulk carrier, Nishan Degnarain asked: “When Australian authorities (AMSA) reached out to BP asking for a sample in August, why did BP block the inquiry and not collaborate by providing the oil sample or analysis of the oil?”

What is Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO)

According to Forbes, VLSFO is an experimental combination of jet fuel and heavy ship oil that is causing engine failures around the world on wide ocean-bound vessels. It was hurried through for clearance by the United Nations shipping agency (the IMO) in January 2020 without adequate safety testing.  Statistics by Forbes, at present, indicate 70% of all large ships worldwide are powered by this fuel and at least 6% of such ships (3600 ships) at any time are at risk of engine failure. Forbes also reported that the maritime authority failed to investigate the 20% rise in major shipping incidents in 2020. 

The VLSFO Risks

The IMO was also urged last year by the Clean Arctic Alliance to immediately switch to distillate fuels for ships in the Arctic and develop a global rule prohibiting fuels with high Black Carbon emissions.” The call aims to respond to a report from January 2020 disclosing that some of the blended low sulphur shipping fuels produced and sold by oil producers to comply with IMO 2020 air pollution standards would potentially contribute to a surge in the emissions of Black Carbon.

The Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance also warned that if no immediate action was taken, it would accelerate the melting of the Arctic sea ice.

“If immediate action isn’t taken by the IMO, the shipping industry’s use of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) – introduced to comply with the 2020 sulphur cap – will lead to a massive increase in Black Carbon emissions, and this will both accelerate the melting of Arctic sea ice and have a major impact on Earth’s climate,” he said.

The VLSFO is a range of chemicals that are wide, variable, and volatile, however, the problem is that it is considered as one type of fuel when it is not. The risks of the VLSFO according to Forbes are fires and explosions in the engine room, unexpected engine shutdowns, critical parts of engines cracking and snapping off and needing to be replaced mid-voyage, runaway engines, and excess pollution.