The grounding of the Capesize bulk carrier Wakashio on a reef off Mauritius in July 2020 revived the longstanding debate related to criminalization of seafarers. A preliminary investigation indicates that the vessel was off course in an attempt to pick up a wi-fi signal at the time of grounding. The ensuing environmental damage to the coastline was considerable and resulted in a decision to detain the Master and Chief Officer without consideration to bail. Most other crew members are under house arrest in a local hotel pending their appearance as witnesses in an eventual trial.
The continued unwarranted detention of the Ultra large Container Vessel Ever Given by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has thrown a spotlight on the relationship between the marine industry and the management of critical infrastructure across the globe.
It would be unwise to dismiss the decision of the UK government to send a full strength aircraft carrier strike group east of Suez this month for a maiden deployment that will take in 40 countries and involve exercises with a number of allied and friendly nations. To put this into context, this is the first time that the UK has put such a major strike group to sea since the Falklands war with Argentina in 1982.