In today’s digital era, a growing number of people find themselves tethered to their smartphones, often missing out on the beautiful moments life offers because their eyes are glued to screens — Smartphone addiction can lead to a detachment from the world around us, preventing us from fully appreciating the wonders of nature, quality time with loved ones, or even the simple joy of a leisurely stroll.
Regrettably, this obsession with screens can extend to dangerous situations, with individuals using their phones while driving or walking, resulting in avoidable accidents and mishaps — And on this topic, we had an ugly environmental accident during the pandemic: Japanese investigators from the Transport Safety Board have determined that a cargo ship responsible for a 1,000-ton fuel oil spill off the coast of Mauritius in 2020, went off-course while searching for a cell phone signal.
The incident occurred near Blue Bay Marine Park, a popular snorkeling destination in the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius, as the ship was en route from China to Brazil. The vessel was Japanese-owned but sailed under a Panamanian flag and was captained by an Indian national.
The investigation revealed that 2 days before the grounding, the ship’s captain altered its route, bringing it 5 nautical miles from the coastline instead of the initially planned 22 nautical miles; This change was made without proper marine charts, and the captain was unaware that the waters in the area were less than 20 meters deep. The ship subsequently struck a coral reef, causing the fuel oil spill.
The report from the Japan Transport Safety Board highlighted that the captain had changed the course to get within range of a signal for his smartphone. Furthermore, the report indicated that such behavior was not an isolated incident and that there was a lack of safety awareness among the crew.
In an alarming detail, the report mentioned that just before the incident, the captain consumed two glasses of whiskey and water during a shipboard birthday party. A transcript of the voyage data recording (VDR) audio clip captured the captain’s distress over his actions and the potential loss of his career.
Devastating Environmental Consequences
The oil spill had devastating environmental consequences, spreading from Blue Bay to Trou d’Eau Douce and affecting a significant area of coastline and sea. Cleanup efforts were hampered by a combination of COVID-19 and adverse weather conditions, exacerbating the damage caused by the spill.
Greenpeace has termed the incident the worst environmental disaster in Mauritius’ history, with reports of dead whales and dolphins washing ashore and significant damage to the marine ecosystem.
Let this incident be a reminder that while smartphones can enhance our lives in numerous ways, it’s essential to strike a balance and remain mindful of the world beyond the screen.
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