YOKOHAMA: A Japan Coast Guard unit specializing in cleaning up oil and toxic liquids spilled into the ocean was deployed to Mauritius last month to assist local authorities in responding to a fuel oil leak from a stranded Japanese-owned cargo ship.
Hisashi Otsuka, head of a National Strike Team deployed to Mauritius, said that it worked behind the scenes to offer technical and coordination support.
The Japanese government sent a group comprising the JCG team and staff of the Japan International Cooperation Agency at the request of the Mauritian government. The six-member group worked for Mauritius from Aug. 10 to 23.
According to Otsuka, expert teams from the United Nations and other institutions were already on the island when the Japanese delegation arrived there. The group’s main task was to advise local authorities on preventing the further spread of oil from the Wakashio freighter, which grounded off the Indian Ocean island state in late July.
When the Japanese group arrived, removing oil that had washed up in mangrove forests along the coast was a major challenge in the disaster. The group briefed disaster response personnel, including members of the Mauritian government, on the state of the oil spill using satellite images from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA.
It also demonstrated methods for cleaning up oil spills to local coast guard members, using oil that was collected from the Wakashio leak.
“It was support that only Japan could do,” Otsuka said. “We were able to meet the local needs.”
The group was also tasked with coordinating organizations involved in the cleanup. Otsuka said that there are many actors in the process, such as the owner of the grounded cargo ship, the shipping firm that chartered it, insurance firms and international organizations dealing with oil pollution.
“The process may be stalled unless their respective roles are clear,” he said.
The group explained to the local government about the relationship between the different players to clarify the situation.
“It was behind the scenes, but it was an important task,” Otsuka said. “I pray for a swift recovery.”
The JCG plans to continue assisting the Mauritian government by providing satellite imagery and other aid.