New documents reveal BP was behind toxic Mauritius oil spill

Wreck of the bulk carrier MV Wakashio
Wreck of the bulk carrier MV Wakashio on 22 August 2020

When the Japanese cargo ship Wakashio struck a coral reef off Mauritius she spilled over 1,000 tonnes of highly toxic fuel oil into unspoilt lagoons and mangroves of the coastline

Last July the people of the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, with the help of outside groups, sprang into action to protect a once-perfect tropical coastline. They had no any guidance on the type of fuel oil they were dealing with.

The Wakashio broken in half and spilling fuel oil
The Wakashio ran aground on July 25 and started spilling oil on August 6, she was carrying oil from BP that was found to be faulty | Image: AFP VIA GETTY

The fuel oil turned out to be highly toxic and since then the cleanup has reportedly been conducted in an unusually secretive manner. More than 50 whales and dolphins have been found dead on Mauritius’s coast, along with thousands of other sea creatures, all within a few miles of the wreck of the ship.

Newly released documents now reveal that not only was BP was behind the toxic oil involved in the Mauritius oil spill but it formally blocked an investigation into the type of fuel that spilled into the ocean.

Document scan revealing BP was responsible for the oil used in the Wakashio disaster
Documents reveal BP was responsible for the oil used in the Wakashio| Image: FOIA REQUEST / GREENPEACE

The oil is called Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (VLSFO), it is an experimental mixture of jet fuel and heavy ship oil that is causing engine failures around the world. This fuel currently powers about 70% of all large ships, and at least 6% of these vessels (3,600 ships) are at risk of engine failure at any one moment with a 20% spike in major shipping incidents in 2020.

An infographic about Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (VLSFO)
An experimental fuel is causing ship engine failure and ship disasters around the world | Image: DEGNARAIN

VLSFO has been described as both a ‘super-pollutant’ and a ‘Frankenstein fuel’ by environmental NGOs. Some incorporates waste plastics and there are calls for it to be banned from the Arctic and other parts of the ocean where it could be exposed to biologically sensitive areas or population centres.

The documents came to light as part of a six-month international investigation conducted by several investigative organizations and involving four of Greenpeace’s international offices. Many of the documents were revealed through Freedom of Information requests lodged in several countries around the world.

One of the Freedom of Information requests launched by Greenpeace regarding the Wakashio | Image: GREENPEACE AUSTRALIA


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