The captain of the MV Wakashio – the Japanese ship that spilled tonnes of oil into Mauritius waters – had been drinking before the accident, an expert witness told a court in Port Louis on Tuesday.
According to the expert, the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR), which took an audio recording in the ship, confirmed suspicions of a birthday party little more than an hour before the ship ran aground and that the Capt Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, an Indian, had consumed alcohol.
Capt Nandeshwar was also aware that the depth under the ship was decreasing considerably, the court heard.
The court also heard that the ship’s voice recorder did not record any call with the Mauritius National Coast Guard.
The MV Wakashio, owned by Nagashiki Shipping and chartered by Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL), went aground off Mauritius on 25 July while carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oilbefore it split into two on 16 August.
58-year-old Nandeshwar faces charges of ‘unlawful interference with the operation of a property of a ship’ that resulted in unsafe navigation.
Under the charge, Nandeshwar faces a 60-year prison sentence, it was reported.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Assistant Superintendent of Police Roshan Kokil gave several hypotheses for the boat’s failure to contact the coast guard, which included the marine radio being off, the ship’s frequency not being on the same frequency as the coast guard, a disconnection of the antenna or a low volume.
Capt Nandeshwar has requested bail, insisting that he has no intention of leaving Mauritius.
“I have a reputation to maintain and I must clear my honour by staying here until the investigation is completed,” he told the Intermediate Court in Port Louis on Tuesday.
However, police objected.
“The suspect may ask the three crew members, in this case the second officer, the chief engineer and the cook, to change their version, if he is free,” the police told the magistrate.
“The suspect, as a person familiar with marine routes and a very influential captain, may easily be tempted to leave the Mauritian territory to escape a severe sentence from the court, if he is convicted.”
Magistrate Neeshal Kumar Jugnauth will rule on the bail motion on 20 October.
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