On Thursday, the geared bulker Benita went hard aground on reefs near the small city of Mahebourg, Mauritius – reportedly due to an attempted mutiny and a brawl among her 23 Taiwanese and Filipino crew.
Armed members of the Mauritius National Coast Guard responded to reports of a violent fight and attempted to board the grounded vessel via helicopter. Mauritius’ Defi Media reports that the helicopter operations were hindered at first by citizen-operated drones. “The police helicopter has great difficulty because there are drones flying over the area . . . the police appeal to people who run these drones to avoid flying [them],” said a police press officer in a local radio address.
Once aboard, the coast guard team entered the engine room, which had been barricaded, and arrested the chief engineer, who was the suspected leader of the fight aboard the ship. He was evacuated for medical treatment; local reports indicate that he had been shot. The remainder of the crew are safe.
Investigators are still looking into the exact cause of the fight and the grounding.
Five Oceans Salvage has been contracted to remove the vessel from the rocks. One towing vessel, the Five Oceans anchor handling tug supply ship Ionian Sea Fos, attended the 45,000 dwt Benita as of Friday evening. The Fos, stationed in Port Louis, Mauritius, has a 100 ton bollard pull, and is equipped with salvage pumps, fenders, welding machines, pollution control supplies, and a full set of diving equipment for two.
The Benita was empty at the time of the grounding, and has 145 tonnes fuel oil and 30 tons diesel aboard. No pollution has been observed.