• Kyodo

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Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., the operator of the Japanese freighter that spilled oil off the coast of Mauritius in July, pledged Friday to take measures to boost safety in operating both its own and chartered ships, saying its probe found the incident was due to a lack of safety awareness among crew members.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines said it will set up surveillance cameras in the wheelhouse of its ships and ask owners of the chartered ships to do the same. The company will also prioritize giving new contracts to ships equipped with cameras and the appropriate communication systems, it said.

According to the operator, the captain and crew members of the Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Wakashio failed to prepare marine charts of appropriate scale and to confirm the vessel’s distance from the coast both visually and by radar observation.

They likely navigated near the coast to get a mobile network connection, the operator said. Investigations by Mauritius authorities are still underway.

Although the operator is not legally responsible for the damage caused by the spill, its Executive Vice President Takeshi Hashimoto said in a news conference the company will take proactive steps such as educating crew members on how to use marine charts and checking the safety management taken by ship owners.

For preventive measures, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines will invest a total of ¥500 million, he added. The company has already pledged about ¥1 billion in aid to Mauritius.

“Should such incidents be repeated, it will damage the foundation of marine transportation services,” Hashimoto said, adding that over half of the 800 ships it operates are chartered.

Wakashio, owned by Nagashiki Shipping Co., ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius on July 25. More than 1,000 tons of oil began leaking into the pristine environment on Aug. 6.

Local police arrested the captain, an Indian national, together with the first officer, a Sri Lankan, in August on suspicion of negligence in operating the vessel.

Cleanup efforts to remove the oil will be mostly completed by January, according to Nagashiki Shipping.

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