The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has declared emphatically that Nigeria does not have trained divers that can conduct the underwater inspection in the search and rescue operations of eight missing crew members involved in the collusion of two vessels, MT Tank and MT Elixir, in Warri, last week.
During a press briefing, the Acting Director General of NIMASA, Baba Haruna Jauro said, “there was a collision on the 19th of October 2015, an accident involving two vessels, Mt Elixir and Mt Tank, the incident occurred 10 nautical miles of the South West of the Bonga, fields, the location was confirmed to be 70 nautical miles from the Nigerian post.
“ What happened was that the bow of the MT Elixir collided with the star buoy of the MT Tank. The MT Elizir was contracted from Lome offshore to Equatorial Guinea at the time of the incidence and the MT Tank was enroute to Onne port, radio report received by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) revealed that the MT Tank broke into two with the half which houses the accommodation part sinking shortly after the collusion with a total of 12 persons on board, the agency NIMASA immediately embarked on search and rescue efforts lead by the MT Elixir vessel which was involved in the accident, they were able to rescue 3 of the crew members and one dead body was recovered.
“Currently search and rescue efforts continues on the location of the sunken MT Tank, while arrangement for under water inspection of the sank portion of the MT Tank is being conducted to ensure that persons are not trapped inside the accommodation. However, due to the depth of the location of the incidence which is more than one kilometer, the divers we have cannot dive down to where the wreckage is. He said.
Noting that the location of the collusion is prone to pirate attacks, Jauro stated “four naval security has been placed on board the MT Elixir to provide security to the vessel. In the same vein a team that comprises of marine specialists and naval officers were quickly dispatched to the reported location of the incidence, so that they also can contribute to the ongoing search and rescue operations, we also embarked on preliminary investigations into the fatal incidence, at the time of filling this report.
On behalf of NIMASA, Jauro Sympathizes with the bereaved and the families of those that are still trapped in MT Tank, and equally denied allegations that NIMASA did not arrive at the scene of the incident until after three days.” We cannot lose hope of still finding survivors until we have done all that needs to be done, by experience we have had an incidence where a vessel sank and as much as four to five days later, under water inspection was carried out and we found survivors after everybody had given up hope. As long as water is not entering the compartment he had pockets of air that he survived on for about three days, so we cannot give up hope because we might still have survivors.
Similarly, while fielding questions from journalists during the interactive session the Director of Maritime Safety of NIMASA, Mr. Vincent Idoye said, “The incidence happened on Monday midnight and that same midnight we received a detailed alarm from MRCC, and they quickly arranged a vessel to go to the scene to conduct a search and rescue as well as investigate and immediately we contacted Global West vessel which still has a partnership with NIMASA for the operation, because NIMASA cannot be at the scene of every accident but we can always respond ,we have an MoU with Shell Petroleum that owns the Bonga Creek and the agreement is that if there is distress at sea the nearest vessel to the location of the accident should respond immediately.
“As a matter of fact, it is an offence if a vessel that is within the vicinity fails to respond, so while our vessel was going to the scene one of the vessels that within the Bonga field has responded and picked up the survivors, and of course, the vessel that was involved in the accident, the MT Elixir had also deployed their own rescue boat to pick up the three survivors so by the time NIMASA’s vessel got to the location they had picked up three survivors all they did was to convey the survivor for proper medical attention.
He said, “Although we did not physically conduct the rescue, we conveyed the survivors from the MT Elixir quickly for proper medical attention.” Adding that NIMASA did not lie in its claim to be part of the rescue of the survivors. He explained “We still use Global West vessels to facilitate search and rescue and enforcement. And we had four Navy personnel on board which we put on the MT Elixir for additional security because we asked the vessel to remain there until we have concluded the investigation.
“ the satellite surveillance system is there and working very well and that was used to get the actual coordinates of where the accident took place before deploying our search and rescue vessels to get to the scene of the accident. The surveillance system is not used to prevent accidents but to keep surveillance of the parameters in case an accident occurs so that people are ready to response immediately. He said.
Idoye stated that NIMASA has created a forum for the two parties to come together for dialogue and the vessel found to have caused the accident will be made to pay compensation to the families of the bereaved persons.
Meanwhile, reports from Twin Stomp Energy Limited, a Nigerian owned company and the owners of the sunken vessel, MT Tank that was involved in a collision with another vessel from a Greek company in which the lives of 9 crew members were lost last week, indicates that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA has intentions to shield them from liability including possible prosecution.
According to the Managing Director of Twin Stomp Energy Limited, Mr. Tosin Kolawole, “NIMASA, the agency of government responsible for administration and safety issues on Nigeria waterways so far has not been quite cooperative, and in fact failed to ensure a thorough investigation into the matter, even a mere accident where properties were damaged, there has to be an investigation in order to determine the remote cause of the accident not to mention an accident in which apart from the loss of the ship MT Tank, out of the 12 crew on board,3 were rescued alive, while the remaining 9, including a Ghanaian, are dead with only 1 body so far recovered
Kolawole lamented, “NIMASA to our knowledge till date is yet to commence any investigation into the matter. We are yet to be paid a visit by the police and navy in the process of any investigation. The MT Elixir and its crew remained on board its vessel, and have not been invited by relevant law enforcement agencies for questioning. We delivered petitions to all relevant law enforcement agencies including the police and navy. These agencies have made attempts to go into the matter, but NIMASA has not made that a possibility. As a matter of fact, all the steps taken indicates some sinister motive on the part of NIMASA towards a cover-up end.”
He asserted, “the vessel which had 12 crew on board as Nigerians except for one Ghanaian was cleared to embark, and did embark on a trip to Port Harcourt on Sunday, The MT Tank was sunk by a foreign vessel, owned by Greeks, ship MT Elixir in an accident along Bonga Terminal, offshore Warri, in Delta State and information reaching us indicates that the ship was not at all meant for Nigerians waterways at the time of the accident.”
He enumerated the rescued crew as Magaji Joshua, Moses Apobowei and Sambo Mohammed stressing that, NIMASA has refused to enlist the support of the police and the navy NIMASA has refused to involve relevant government agencies, in particular the police and the navy despite our repeated requests
He alleged, “This is not the first time incidence like this happen on our waterways; Bigger foreign vessels come within our waterways and recklessly and maliciously wreak havoc on us. Ship accidents have been recorded, leading to loss of Nigerian lives. A recent occurrence was on the 21st December 2013 when MT Niki C, a foreign vessel, and MT Charon collided, Two Nigerian crew were killed in the process, the accident was reported but till date no investigation was carried out by NIMASA, Police and the Navy. The case was successfully buried by NIMASA
Our people are gruesomely being murdered by these foreigners and NIMASA prefers to shield them. Our dead crew left young families and other dependents behind. We have lost our ship, our means of livelihood. Being an agency of government, NIMASA owes Nigerians the obligation to protect our lives and property, and where we have lost anything, NIMASA should ensure that justice is served and we are adequately, compensated rather NIMASA has been threatening to allow the MT Elixir sail out of the country. He added.
Kolawole called on well-meaning Nigerians to call NIMASA to order to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter, noting that only the law court can sit to determine the innocence of the foreign vessel and its crew.