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Panama: Before Grounding, Wakashio Deviated from Course to Pick Up Cell Signal for Birthday Celebration

The Panama Maritime Authority has officially joined the investigation into the grounding of the MV Wakashio in Mauritius, revealing new details about the final voyage.

According to the AMP and based on information that is available, the ship made a course change on July 25 prompted by a crew member’s birthday that would take the vessel within 5 miles of Mauritius, close enough to pick up cell phone and internet signals.

The MV Wakashio grounded off Mauritius’ Pointe d’Esny at approximately 1925 LT, about an hour and a half after the last position was recorded in the ship’s ECDIS, the AMP said.

Satellite AIS ship tracking showed the vessel adjusted course on July 21 at 0200

Satellite AIS ship tracking from the Wakashio’s fateful voyage, previously reported in the media, showed the vessel adjusted course on July 21 at 0200, putting the vessel on a crash with the island.

Wakashio’s Captain, Chief Engineer and Chief Officer were all on the bridge when the approach occurred, according to the AMP.

Attempts by the Mauritian coast guard to contact the vessel were unsuccessful until after the grounding.

Wakashio’s Captain and Chief Officer have been arrested and charged with “endangering safe navigation” under the country’s Piracy and Maritime Violence Act and remain in custody in Mauritius.

The AMP has also revealed the chart displayed on the Wakashio’s ECDIS was the wrong chart and wrong scale..

Causes for the grounding

“The lack of supervision and monitoring of the navigation equipment, the distraction generated when the officer of the watch totally loses the course of the navigation and an ‘excess of confidence’ during the watch, are indicated among the causes that could cause the grounding and sinking Partial vessel on a coral reef off Mauritius,” the statement added.

The AMP says it is now awaiting the results of interviews with the Wakashio’s Captain and Chief Officer. It has also requested access to the ship’s VDR and other “essential ship navigation documents”.

 It is not clear if the Wakashio’s crew was caught up in the crew change crisis.

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