Merchant vessel captain returns to India after spending 16 months in Mauritius jail over oil spill

The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio, under the command of Captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, was en route to Brazil from China when it veered off its course and hit a coral reef

Merchant vessel captain Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, who was arrested and jailed for 16 months in Mauritius after his ship ran aground in July 2020 and triggered an oil spill off its coast, has returned to India following his release from the island country.

Mr Nandeshwar, who resides with his family members in Bhopal, reunited with them on Thursday. "I am extremely thankful to the Maritime Union of India (MUI) for its support and help in securing my release from Mauritius jail. I am back home because of the relentless efforts of the MUI general secretary Amar Singh Thakur, who consistently pursued my release from the jail through a series of negotiations and representations with the local maritime union of Mauritius, High Commission of India in Port Louis, Shipping Ministry of India and External Affairs Ministry of India," said Mr Nandeshwar in a release issued by the MUI, India’s oldest union of merchant navy officers.

Expressing happiness over his return, his wife Namrata said, "Yes, finally my husband is back and our ordeal is over. He is fine and has safely reached home."

The 300-meter-long Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio under the command of Captain Nandeshwar was en route to Brazil from China when it veered off its course in the evening on July 25, 2020 and hit a coral reef. Two weeks later, fuel oil started leaking with about 1,000 tonnes of it reaching the shores. The vessel then broke into two and sank, it said.

Mauritius battled widespread pollution following the oil spill from MV Wakashio, which threatened the livelihoods of local communities that solely depend on the ocean and tourism, the release said.

Captain Nandeshwar was arrested by the local police and sentenced in the Intermediate Court of Mauritius, it added.

MUI general secretary Mr Thakur said, "The MUI remains committed to provide help, support and legal assistance to all members of the union and Indian seafarers in any part of the world during crisis-like situation and distress."

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