TOKYO - Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. pledged Friday about 1 billion yen ($9.4 million) in aid to Mauritius in response to an oil spill from a grounded Japanese freighter operated by the company, including an 800 million yen fund for cleaning up the environment.
The contribution over several years will cover projects for coral reef recovery as well as mangrove and seabird protection in and around the Indian Ocean island nation, with support from the University of Mauritius and other experts on environmental restoration and protection, the company said.
"We will continuously engage in efforts to restore the natural environment and support local communities in Mauritius" with authorities in the island state and Japan, Mitsi O.S.K. President and CEO Junichiro Ikeda said at a press conference in Tokyo.
Even though Mitsui O.S.K. Lines is not legally responsible for the damage caused by the oil spill that began on Aug. 6, Ikeda said the accident has "brought a huge impact on Mauritius, and we have a social responsibility as the operator of the ship."
"We have to take necessary measures" to support Mauritius, he said. Nagashiki Shipping Co. of Japan, the owner of the Panama-flagged bulk carrier Wakashio, is legally liable for any damage that it causes.
Nagashiki will also make a contribution to Mitsui O.S.K. Lines' environmental fund, Mitsui O.S.K. said.
The 1 billion yen funding from the Japanese firm also includes a total of around 100 million yen in donations to local nongovernmental organizations engaged in relief efforts, and funds established by the government of Mauritius and the United Nations, Mitsui O.S.K. said.
The major shipping firm also said it will establish a liaison office in Mauritius in October to coordinate its rescue activities on the island country. The company has already dispatched a total of 13 officials in two groups to help the country recover from the damage caused by the oil leakage, it said.
Wakashio was carrying about 3,800 tons of fuel oil when it ran aground on July 25. More than 1,000 tons of oil leaked from the vessel.