TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A Japanese-owned bulk carrier stranded on a reef off the coast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean since last month has started leaking oil, the cargo vessel's owner said Friday.
The Panama-flagged tanker Wakashio was found to have run aground on the reef on the night of July 25, according to the Mauritius government. The vessel belongs to Nagashiki Shipping Co. and was operated by transport company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., said a spokesperson of the ship owner in Okayama Prefecture.
The grounding occurred near Pointe d'Esny, an area designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, which is close to Blue Bay Marine Park, another Ramsar site.
Mauritius' environment ministry said in a statement Thursday that it is facing an "environmental crisis situation" and has barred access to beaches and lagoons on its southeast coast, according to local media reports.
"In order to reduce the impact on the environment, we have put up a fence and commenced recovering the oil," the spokesperson of Nagashiki Shipping said.
The vessel was carrying around 200 tons of diesel and 3,800 tons of bunker fuel, according to the local reports, but it is unknown how much has leaked.
The approximately 300-meter-long tanker, built in 2007, was en route to Brazil from Singapore and was carrying no cargo at the time. All 20 members of the crew evacuated safely and are unharmed, the ship's owner said.
Mauritius, an island nation with a population of around 1.3 million, is located around 2,000 kilometers east of Mozambique off the southeast coast of Africa.