The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has been accused of attempting to cover up the death of 8 (eight) Nigerians and 1 (one) Ghanaian in an accident involving a collusion between a Greek flag Vessel, MT Elixir and a Tanzanian flag vessel MT Tank.
According to Capt. Deji Abegunde, the Technical Manager of Twinstomp Energy Limited, owners of the sunk MT Tank said, “The Greek vessel has since been released and NIMASA is standing between the two owners, we await the end result since NIMASA is in charge. The issue is not about one or two crew members, this involved the lives of 8 (eight) Nigerians and 1 (one) Ghanaian, the sunk vessel has not been found. We were not even allowed to have access to the foreign vessel, so we are hoping on the ability of NIMASA.
He lamented, “NIMASA said they do not have the capability to go down and conduct under water search and they have refused to ask for international assistance in the search. We are not surprised because this is not the first time an accident like this has happened in our maritime waters and most times NIMASA tries to cover up these accidents. Another one that happened exactly like this involved Niki C, a Greek flag vessel, and Sharon, a Togolese flag vessel, owned by a Nigerian and manned by Nigerian crew.
“After the collision on December 21, 2013, about 20 nautical miles off the shores of Lagos. Sharon sank and NIMASA collected the 7 (seven) rescued survivors out of 9 (nine) crew members on board the vessel. The remaining two crew members sank with the vessel. NIMASA did not do any search and rescue and the case ended just like that, those bodies were never found till date. NIMASA allowed the Niki C to go immediately they collected the survivors but fortunately for us the vessel went in to Warri to discharge after about two weeks and we were able to arrest the vessel and place a court injunction and the court has been pushing the case up and down ever since and they left 10 dependants.” He added.
Deji further stated, “It was because we were able to apprehend Niki C that we are in court but in the case of MT Elixir we don’t even know the colour nor have access to the vessel, it is only NIMASA that has contact with them and they have collected the survivors. What NIMASA should have done is after it called the vessel for investigation, NIMASA should have allowed the families of the bereaved to put a court injunction on the vessel but instead they prevented everybody from having access to the vessel and subsequently released the vessel.
Meanwhile, speaking to newsmen at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos, recently, the Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services of NIMASA, Dr Calistus Obi said stakeholders’ criticism of the released of MT Elixir last week by NIMASA is based on ignorance, when there is an accident especially an accident involving an international sea going vessel there are basic, fundamental procedures and rules that NIMASA followed before they allowed the vessel to sail.
“That has not stopped anything from being done as it relates to the claims of all the parties involved, unfortunately people died, what we should be talking about is the extent of liability of the vessel that was the cause of the accident and that is all under investigation. You don’t keep a vessel while you are investigating because the maritime authority of the country involved where the vessel was registered has signed an undertaken, so at the end of the day somebody must be held responsible the vessel owner must, it is obligatory, they must bear responsibility for it, of course, we had to allowed them sail, because it does not in any way impeded the investigations being conducted by NIMASA.” He explained.
Regarding the progress so far recorded in the search and rescue, Obi said, “We have to say this emphatically, there are areas where we lack capacity, we are taking about a depth of about 1,500 kilometers, which is massive, and so NIMASA is doing its utmost best to see how we can come out of the unfortunate situation.