Here's Who's Liable For Cleaning Up The Mauritius Oil Spill In The Indian Ocean

Illustration for article titled Here's Who's Liable For Cleaning Up The Mauritius Oil Spill In The Indian Ocean
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Airports are looking for a new business model, Michigan reinvents bus lanes again, oil prices will stay low, and who has to clean up the major oil spill in the Indian Ocean? That and more in The Morning Shift for Friday, August 14, 2020.


1st Gear: The Politics Of A 1,000-Tonne Oil Cleanup

The island nation of Mauritius off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean suffered a catastrophic oil spill last month after a Japanese cargo ship headed to South America for iron ore sailed into a reef, dumping thousands of tonnes of its fuel into the surrounding environment.

For those curious, there are actually a lot of international laws in place to make sure that Mauritius and anyone else impacted by the oil spill have some legal protection and insurance, and Reuters has a breakdown of how the blame is all expected to be dished out:

Under the 2001 International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution damage, which is referred to as the BUNKER convention and has been administered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) since it came into force in 2008, the owners of vessels are responsible for damage caused by oil leaks. That means Nagashiki rather than Mitsui OSK is liable.


Removing the ship will be a delicate operation and is likely to take months. France, which once ruled Mauritius as a colony, has said it will assist with the cleanup, while Japan said it is sending experts.

Now that the remaining diesel and oil have been removed from the ship, the recovery operation can begin. The ship operator’s insurer, Japan P&I, could potentially cover up to $1 billion in damages, though the amount of damages paid out will have to be determined since Mauritius has only ratified the 1976 version of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, while Japan has ratified the more recent 1996 amendment, which increases the upper payment limit from 2 billion yen to 7 billion yen.

2nd Gear: Never Gonna Happen

Michigan is looking for its next vanity public works project, and it may be in the form of a pointless “autonomous” driving corridor between the cities of Ann Arbor and Detroit. From Auto News:

With an eye toward embracing industry R&D efforts, the state said Thursday it has embarked on efforts to sketch a corridor between Detroit and Ann Arbor loaded with infrastructure that can speed deployment and enables safe movement of these vehicles.

Chiefly, renderings for the project — which will explore the viability of building such a corridor — depict the creation of dedicated lanes reserved for connected and autonomous vehicles that are separated from human traffic by “separation barriers” that “ensure safety and efficiency,” according to Cavnue.

Cavnue, a subsidiary of Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners — itself a division of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company — will run the exploratory project along with Google subsidiary Sidewalk Labs, the company’s urban digitalization platform.

Officials say they will evaluate the potential of the project over the next 24 months.


First of all, the “24 month” feasibility deadline must be somebody’s idea of a joke because I guarantee you at the current rate of world affairs, we are not going to be too worried about a lane of road in Michigan in a few years time.

Additionally, shouldn’t self-driving and driver assistant technologies be tested in environments that simulate the real world as much as possible? As nice as it is to think we can engineer a new network of roads just for self-driving vehicles to be protected, it’s never going to happen. These technologies will need to be able to adapt to human drivers on the road, as well as everything else human drivers put up with on a multi-lane road.


If you build a road or lane dedicated for self-driving vehicles, just make a bus lane and make it actually nice to ride.

3rd Gear: Oil Not Coming Back Soon

The oil market will not recover to the heights of the 2019 market for at least another year and a half, according to everybody via Bloomberg:

All three of the world’s main oil forecasting agencies — the International Energy Agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries — published new quarterly forecasts this week and none sees oil demand back at 2019 levels by the end of next year.

Transport fuels are proving particularly vulnerable, with jet fuel and gasoline hardest hit during the depth of the pandemic and remaining so as restrictions have been gradually eased. With the Northern Hemisphere summer holiday season drawing toward its close at the beginning of September, time is fast running out for the normal seasonal boost to both driving and flying.

Commercial flights are languishing 40% below their peak January level, according to data from Flightradar24. Long-haul flights have been hit particularly hard; U.S. ticket purchases for international flights were down by 86% year on year in June, the most recent month for which figures are available from the Airlines Reporting Corporation.


The good news? Potential cheap fuel costs for some time to come, for both driving and flying. The bad news? The global circumstances to allow that will likely make most of our lives a living hell for as long as we benefit from lower prices.

4th Gear: Airports Became Malls As Malls Are Dying And Guess What

Right as the air travel industry was entering a new global boom, with many of the world’s major airports undergoing long-overdue expansion and airlines were desperate for more gate space, the COVID-19 epidemic has suddenly reversed that course, and now most airports sit as empty malls with no revenue coming in.


From Bloomberg:

At airports the world over, the pandemic has wrecked a business model that relies on a steady influx of airlines and their free-spending passengers. So operators stuck with lifeless buildings are trying to dream up fresh ways to generate income. Changi is encouraging Singaporeans who aren’t traveling to shop tax-free at the airport’s struggling retailers.

It’s also selling three-month admission packages to Jewel’s activity area. For other airports, new ways to make money include turning parking lots into drive-in movie theaters or unused land into renewable energy farms.

“What Covid-19 has taught airports is they need to diversify their revenue sources,” says Max Hirsh, research fellow at the University of Hong Kong and managing director of Airport City Academy, which offers airport-related executive training courses. “Airports are going to have to figure out different ways to make money.”


How much longer until I can rent a 737 for a couple of hours and see if I can make it to the edge of space and back?

5th Gear: The Future Dealers Don’t Want You To Know About

Ford understands now may be a bad time to go to a dealership, but it also just introduced the latest version of its best-selling Ford F-150 pickup truck it would really like you to look at. The solution is your phone, via Auto News:

Ford on Thursday announced an augmented reality feature called “driveway dealership.” It allows users to view a life-size virtual image of a 2021 F-150 pickup in their driveway or inside their home for a virtual walk-around. Would-be buyers also can explore the cabin with 360-degree interior views.

Users can access the feature by scanning a QR code with their smartphone cameras at


I once used a handheld iPad to walk through the engine bay of the BMW X3 M Competition to crouch down and watch the fancy new oil pan work as designed as if the car were running, with my nose five inches away. It was pretty remarkable. Ford’s thing isn’t really like that yet, but if I were a dealership owner, I’d be nervous about the rumors that the next-gen iPhones are getting LIDAR-specific cameras for improved VR and AR features.

Reverse: The Oldsmobile Relief Act


Neutral: What Can You Do With Your Airport?

Look, you’re just probably not going to be using your airport in any significant capacity anytime soon, especially as America’s virus situation continues to develop into the kid-with-pinkeye-separated-on-the-playground scenario and the world doesn’t want to play with us. What bright ideas do you have to turn your local airport into something useful? Runway drag race circuit?

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik


Here are a few pics taken from my garden (the ship is roughly 10km away), the first one taken shortly after it ran aground:

This one was on the day before oil started spilling:

And the day it started spilling: